A group of the leading seafarer welfare charities and other shipping industry stakeholders have launched a $1 million emergency relief fund to support seafarers and their families impacted by the rampant COVID-19 outbreak in India.
Even before the recent 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. Despite some progress in combatting the crisis, the daily number of COVID-19 cases in India, which is home to many of the world’s 1.5 million seafarers, has reached more than 400,000 per day, prompting some major ports to prohibit ship crew changes for seafarers with recent travel history the country, says the International Chamber of Shipping.
In response to the rise in numbers, international seafarer welfare organizations including The Seafarers’ Charity (formerly Seafarers UK) supported by The Mission to Seafarers, ISWAN, Sailors’ Society and others have come together in united appeal to the shipping industry to deliver urgent support to seafarers and their families through a $1 million Seafarers International Relief Fund, with an immediate focus on those in India.
“We are all shocked by the scenes from India, where an already critical situation is getting more desperate with every passing hour,” said Catherine Spencer, Chief Executive of The Seafarers’ Charity, which will administer and oversee the fund. “India is facing a crisis on the frontline of its fight against the pandemic and this is directly affecting seafarers and their families who have already suffered tremendously over the past 15 months.”
A number of major shipping organization have already signed on with support, including Anglo-Eastern, Ardmore Shipping, Cargill, Hafnia, IRI (Marshall Islands Flag), MSC, Pacific Basin and V.Group.
The fund’s establishment was also supported by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), who welcomed the fund. “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause immense hardship all around the world,” said Lim. “I offer my heartfelt support to all those struggling at this time. I am pleased to learn of the establishment of this industry-led emergency fund to assist seafarers and their families during these unprecedented times ”
“By joining forces to form the Seafarers International Relief Fund, our aim is to send a clear message about the urgency of the crisis faced by seafarers globally; pooling our resources to ensure that support can be delivered as quickly as possible,” added Spencer. “We are calling on companies and individuals from across shipping. This great industry can make a real difference if it puts its weight behind the fund and donates now to support this appeal.”
Esben Poulsson, Chair of the International Chamber of Shipping, had this to say:
“We have all been shocked by the images and stories coming from India and our hearts go out to the people of India and those from India working around the world who are suffering from the impact of this pandemic. It often takes a crisis to bring people together and this is no different. The fact that seafarer charities have come together signifies the scale of the challenge before us in the short term and looking further ahead.
“I am calling on shipowners and all those engaged in the maritime sector to support this initiative and consider increasing your contribution to seafarer charities at this time. When faced with significant challenges that maritime community always come together – this is what we do.”
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