IMO urges key worker designation for seafarers, end plight of 400,000 stranded

Jonathan Lopez


LONDON (ICIS)–The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has urged governments to designate seafarers as key workers so the estimated 400,000 stranded on ships can return home.

On Human Rights Day, the IMO said on Thursday the fundamental rights of seafarers are not being met as travel restrictions implemented during the pandemic have kept many stranded beyond the end of their contracts.

By designating them as key workers, governments would allow them to have priorities for safe travel, transit, and vaccination, using recommended crew change protocols.

According to the IMO, some seafarers have been working at sea for over 18 months, well beyond the 11-month limit set out in the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) that regulates the sector.

The IMO said also that another “similar number” of seafarers have been unable to leave their home and join ships, enduring financial difficulties.

The IMO’s secretary-general Kitack Lim asked players in the logistics and supply chains sectors to “take action to stand up for human rights” across the maritime sector placing the rights of seafarers at the centre of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) plans.

“People in the maritime sector have been on the frontline during the pandemic, delivering food, medicines and essential goods across the globe … Failure to protect the rights of seafarers, fishers and other marine personnel will jeopardise the safety of shipping and have a detrimental effect on global supply chains,” said Lim.

“This [violation of seafarers human rights] is causing immense strain, fatigue and exhaustion and is unsustainable.”


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