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

No Vaccine At Sea And Still They Worked On…

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June 22, 2021

By Frank Coles (OpEd) – So there is no misunderstanding, I am not a raving lunatic, just a frustrated mariner. I get the complications of COVID, the self-centered behaviors of the governments of the world, etc. But in all of that fear of COVID, winning votes, and needing to keep world trade working, it is a disgrace that those who go to sea have been forgotten.

There is probably no need to repeat the problems and issues that currently exist for seafarers, as many have already spoken about it. But quickly let’s not forget the many injustices that the seafarers have faced these past 18 months.

Seafarers who are unable to go home and forced to do 17-18 month contracts at sea. Unable to go ashore, unable to see their families, and, for sailors ashore, unable to join ships to feed their families. In many cases, these sailors feed and support generations of their families. It still goes on. And still, they worked on.

Dead sailors stuck on ships for months upon months, refused landing by many countries. Visas blocked, crew changes blocked. And still, they worked on. Countries closed their borders, talked about essential workers, some even called mariners essential, but it meant little.

The establishment, the organizations, and governments all had statements, excuses, and effectively were not able to move off the dock to get the ship moving. Parts of Australia required owners to charter planes to separate crew from commercial flights. Some owners cut off the internet to stop the crew from talking about negotiating a bonus or finding out who was getting off in another ship, or what port was open. At one point, over 500,000 sailors were stranded over their contract on ships. And still, they worked on.

Now we are vaccinating seafarers in many places and this is fantastic, but the problems remain, the flights are expensive, the Indian seafarers are banned by many owners and countries and ridiculous entry rules exist in many countries. Like the vaccinated Filipino who had to do 2 weeks quarantine in Manila before he flew out, and then two weeks in the port of joining the ship. And still, they worked on. The vaccine will keep the mariners healthy, but with a disjointed and fragmented world, it doesn’t help the repatriation, safety, and welfare of the maritime industry.

A strike… blasphemy, outrageous… Not really, this is akin to the old days when the masters kept the workers down, and this not being dramatic.

Oh come on, you are fed and watered and get your toys, because they work on. Mariners deserve recognition and understanding, not platitudes and hollow political statements, you need to know they exist.

How simple it would be if the G7 had agreed to execute an operation “get them home”. Vaccines, seafarer visas, and right of passage. Everyone in maritime would jump in to do the testing and arrange the vaccines. Just arrange corridors of repatriation. Put in place an international protocol that is enforced and penalized for those who do not comply. It is not rocket science.

We have sports matches going on with people attending, we have people flying on vacation, but seafarers who deliver 80% of everything you use…. who cares? Mariners need a plan and you need to take action. So they can work on.

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