A mariner gets his temperature checked after his ship arrives in port. Image via IMO

COVID Relief Fund for Seafarers Hits $1 Million Goal

Mike Schuler
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August 17, 2021

After only a few months of fundraising, the Seafarers International Relief Fund (SIRF) has reached its goal of raising $1 million to provide vital relief for seafarers and their families affected by COVID-19.
The target was reached thanks to a substantial donation from NYK Line, plus many other personal and corporate donors, including most recently the TK Foundation. All told, the total raised by SIRF currently stands at $1.17 million and counting, as donations are still be accepted.
The SIRF appeal was launched in May this year amid the rampant outbreak of COVID-19 in India. Even before the surge in India, an estimated 200,000 seafarers had continued to be impacted by the pandemic-fueled crew change crisis, in some cases stranded on ships for months beyond agreed contracts. 

Several leading seafarer welfare charities, including The Seafarers’ Charity, The Mission to Seafarers, ISWAN, Sailors’ Society and Stella Maris, as well as other shipping industry players, came together to explore ways to deliver urgent support to seafarers and their families. Through this effort, the SIRF emerged an emergency relief initiative to raise funds to deliver rapid assistance, initially in India and with the potential to expand to other countries.
In less than three months, SIRF has now raised more than $1 million, all of which goes towards supporting seafarers and their families from the threat of COVID. The latest SIRF grants include funding for Stella Maris to provide food parcels to more than 1,000 seafaring families in Kochi, Kerala, plus funding for support workers to deliver post-COVID medical care, counselling, and therapy, including specialist care for children.
“We are thrilled to have exceeded our target of US$1 million. This was an ambitious goal, but one that reflected the catastrophic impact of the pandemic, particularly in India, where many seafaring communities have been badly affected, through lives lost and severe health impacts, as well as the personal costs for the livelihoods of seafarers,” said Catherine Spencer, Chief Executive of The Seafarers’ Charity, speaking on behalf of the SIRF. “To have reached this goal in less than three months is a wonderful testament to shipping’s global community. All our donors, big and small, have mobilised in support of seafarers and every dollar has helped to deliver urgent, life-saving support to those most in need.
“We would also like to express our deep gratitude to NYK Line for its substantial donation, which is a wonderful expression of its support and solidarity for the world’s seafarers. It is no exaggeration to say that thanks to NYK Line and our other donors, including the TK Foundation, lives will be saved,” Spencer added.

This effort truly exemplifies the solidarity of the industry,” commented Tomoyuki Koyama, Senior Managing Executive Officer at NYK Line. “Although our activity may have been small considering the impact that the pandemic has had on seafarers, we believe that all stakeholders within the international shipping industry should stand hand in hand with our seafarers, essential workers who are vitally needed to keep the worldwide supply chain in operation.”

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