It’s the first of the month, advent calendars are being opened, Christmas trees decorated and presents bought. However, there are hundreds of thousands of men and women for whom the festive season spent with loved ones looks a distant dream.
With many seafarers facing a second December away from home, UK trade union Nautilus International is calling for government and industry to carry out as many crew changes as possible to “deliver seafarers home for Christmas”.
Around 400,000 seafarers are thought to be stranded on ships worldwide due to the failure of government to allow travel to and from vessels during the Covid-19 crisis.
Many seafarers are left re-considering their very future in the industry
In a new campaign, the union is launching a petition which urges governments and the United Nations to work together to ensure that seafarers are designated as key workers in every country, and to allow global crew changes to take place.
“Our members work hard to supply food, medicines – and to deliver Christmas – to households. They often do so without much acknowledgement or public recognition,’” Nautilus International general secretary Mark Dickinson said. “This year, the coronavirus pandemic has given rise to unprecedented levels of stress, fatigue and safety concerns due to countries closing their borders and preventing them from seeing loved ones. Now many of our members are left re-considering their very future in the industry.”
Concluding, Dickinson pleaded: “Normally at this time of year we remind people that seafarers deliver them Christmas. This year we are calling on everyone to deliver seafarers home for Christmas.”
Speaking at the opening of the International Maritime Organization’s legal committee this week, IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim once again stressed the need to resolve the crew change crisis as quick as possible.
“As I have repeatedly emphasised, seafarers are the silent heroes and collateral victims of the Covid-19 pandemic, as travel restrictions have left hundreds of thousands of them stranded on ships, or unable to join ships. IMO, together with other United Nations system organisations, has taken countless actions to address the serious issues that have arisen during this crew change crisis, and we will continue to seek solutions to put an end to the crisis,” Lim said.
This December there are more festive initiatives underway to connect with seafarers than ever before.
For instance, a group of maritime organisations are collaborating on a campaign called #SeafarersDeliveringChristmas.
Companies are being asked to do whatever they can to support the campaign and help these key workers who have kept the global supply chain operating during these unprecedented times. Under the hashtag of #SeafarersDeliveringChristmas, the campaign led by Ocean Technologies Group has developed a range of initiatives to help demonstrate gratitude to all the seafarers who have continued to work and deliver vital cargo under exceptionally difficult circumstances.
Some of the practical ways that the industry can help support its seafarers include donating gifts or money to seafarer charities or missions, providing free 10-minute telephone calls, helping to provide access to support helplines or organising holiday fundraising activities.
Another activity is to encourage companies and individuals to help create a singalong video to the tune of the 12 days of Christmas with specially written lyrics in support of seafarers. Video submissions can be uploaded to the campaign webpage and entries will then be edited by Ocean Technologies Group to create a collaborative maritime industry anthem to show appreciation of colleagues at sea.
More details on how to enter and download the specially written lyrics and music can be found here. The deadline for submissions is this Friday.
Another enterprising effort to engage with seafarers this December comes from the International Seafarers’ Welfare & Assistance Network (ISWAN) whose interactive container-themed advent calendar debuts today. Behind each door is a prize giveaway or an idea for an onboard activity – today one lucky seafarer could win a tablet.