It’s time for the industry to stand up and be counted in support of our seafarers

Frank Coles is frustrated at the limited take-up to date of a petition to enable proper treatment of seafarers during the pandemic. It does not reflect well on our industry as a whole, he argues.

Several months ago we started a petition to get seafarers treated as essential workers with an enforceable international trade protocol. Global governments would collaborate and provide a recognised methodology to enable proper treatment of seafarers in travel, etc. This petition was promoted on Splash, on LinkedIn and other media.

I also wrote to multiple politicians and officials in the US and UK. I had two phone calls from people in DC, and one letter from the office of the prime minister in the UK. Both were aware of the problem, but bemoaned the difficulty of getting countries to work together.

Over the past 18 months countless people have spoken of the importance of seafarers, of the welfare organisations and we had the Day of the Seafarer, but nothing has really changed.

It seems the industry is apathetic to really doing something. I am not talking about welfare, and I am not talking about endless voices of support, I am talking about a recognised level of support. Not 800 companies on the Neptune Declaration but signatures on a petition.

This is an industry of 1.7m seafarers, and countless others who work within it. However, to date the petition has 14,123 signatures. Over 270,000 people have viewed the petition and it has been shared 7,000 times. These are paltry figures for the essential workers of the global supply chain. Maybe the petition is poorly written, but the message is clear, seafaring and seafarers are out of sight and out of mind to the world.

Some 6m people signed a petition to have a truck driver’s sentence reduced after he killed people in an accident in Colorado. There are many others like this on Yet an industry cannot support its workers? I asked a CEO of a global shipmanger if he had signed, he said yes, but he had told his team it was up to them if they wanted to support it. With attitudes like that is it any wonder this industry is blind to the rest of the world.

The petition may not get things changed, but its performance sends a signal, good or bad, on whether maritime workers are relevant. It’s small wonder we don’t get attention for seafarers when we can’t support a petition to help them.

Please sign, please share, please urge your staff, employees, friends to show support for the seafarers and grow the signatures to a level the seafarers deserve and the politicians will pay attention to. Here’s the link:


Splash is Asia Shipping Media’s flagship title offering timely, informed and global news from the maritime industry 24/7.


  1. I wish on the Day of the Seafarer this year seafarers would just stop working and do so for a week after. It seems that no amount of petition or declarations will bring the action needed. Consumers are a large part of what is needed to draw attention to the problem but they are not sufficiently motivated. I thought the world was awakened to how vital seafarers are when the Evergreen was stuck in the Suez. I thought some needed publicity for seafarers and shipping that will bring understanding. But since business returned and we landlubbers continue to get our shiny trinkets and we continue getting the fuel and medicine we need etc, even if a bit delayed (pandemic and other things considering), we don’t care. A strong message needs to be sent and I am not seeing any other way.

    Subsequently to the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change recognizing the shared responsibility of the Maritime Industry to resolve the Seafaring issues:
    The CEOs, of the Maritime Corporations, that have signed among more than 850 signatories, should address the serious Risks imposed on Shipmanagement, Ship Operations, Ship Safety and ultimately the uninterrupted Maritime trade, in front of their BoDs for issuing a Resolution of awareness for the advocacy by the Stakeholders and Investors of measures to be stipulated as follows:
    1) No charter contracts should contain clauses that prevent the international maritime law and the maritime Regulations including necessary crew changes and welfare of Seafarers from being carried out, as the aggregate effect of such clauses could be a serious obstacle to the safe operation of maritime trade and is against the wellbeing and human rights of the seafarers.
    2) Flag State jurisdiction in applying international maritime law and maritime regulations including crew changes, human rights and wellbeing of seafarers should not be overridden by the Port States territorial jurisdiction encompassing prescriptive extensional doctrines that do not recognize and do not implement high-quality health protocols which are adopted internationally for seafarers
    3) By reason as in (2) Shipping Corporations and Flag states registering Fleets shall exercise their jurisdictional right over high seas and exclude sails to and from those State Sea and Air Ports that their extensional doctrines conflict with the international laws on seafarers human rights, maritime laws and regulations and health protocols mentioned in (2).
    The above Resolutions must be authorized by both Shipping Corporations’ signatories to the Neptune Declarations and the Flag States which register their Fleets to be submitted to all Sea Port States.
    If the above are considered challenging by those signatories CEOs, they should go home, or swallow the Neptune paper under their face masks.

  3. Could this at all have anything to do with the petitionee being the POTUS? What good wil that do?
    In this age of social media, is this really the industry’s best response? (there are influencers from the industry, including former and active seafarers, who have large SM followings, at times upwards of 100K)
    Or are we just doing this to tick a box as we usually do in this industry?

    1. Petitions work, if supported… I am amused that you think of me as a box ticker type.

      As for social media, 100k of followers is nothing in the day and age of 10million followers. Another indication of the irrelevance of shipping in the eye of the sea blind public. It’s not sexy and it’s a background noise event.

      Even the supply chain crisis doesn’t turn to the workers who kept it going.

      Govt has blocked a united approach to Covid and travel and only govt can unlock a solution… but without shipping being united they have little incentive …. If maritime can’t show active support then maybe we deserve seafarers leaving the industry …

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