Greater ChinaOperationsTankers

Master diverts Singapore-bound aframax to India, citing mental strain from prolonged working hours

Splash has learnt that the master of a ship under third party management has diverted for India, citing the mental strain he and his crew have been under with the protracted extra weeks at sea thanks to the travel restrictions put in place around the world stemming from the coronavirus.

The China Dawn was en route from Brazil to Singapore when the ship suddenly changed course on Tuesday, as charted by MarineTraffic below.

After much dialogue between connected parties in the ensuing 48 hours owners and charterers have today agreed for this vessel diversion. The aframax is owned by Hong Kong’s Nan Fung Shipping. It remains unclear whether insurance cover extends to mental health coverage for instances such as what is unfolding with the China Dawn.

The ship features seven crew who have worked beyond their contract terms, unable to get home thanks to the coronavirus, with the ship’s master featuring in a high profile article in Hong Kong’s Sunday Morning Post over the weekend, quoted as saying: “We are stuck at sea, we are prisoners at sea.”

Masters being forced into awkward standoffs with shipowners are increasing as the stress of maintaining ship operations during the pandemic increases daily.

Last month Splash reported on the plight of the master and crew onboard the Tomini Destiny, who were at the centre of a week-long coronavirus-linked standoff in Bangladesh waters, over how to safely offload of the vessel’s cargo.

The ship’s Indian captain had taken the decision to invoke Master’s Authority under the International Safety Management Code and applicable Safety Management System, refusing to offload his cargo at Chittagong port for fear that his ship could be infected with the coronavirus via the 60-odd local stevedores who would normally board the vessel in order to offload cargoes.

The impasse between the master and his employers in the UAE even saw him erect razor wire around the vessel to ensure no one could board the bulk carrier.

“From messages seen on closed social media groups, crew, including masters, are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of effective co-ordination and appear to be considering taking matters into their own hands for the safety and security of their crews. The previous fear of blacklisting has been replaced by fear of the consequences of Covid-19, and at least one master has knowingly asserted his authority despite legal liability threats from the owner,” David Hammond, CEO of the charity Human Rights At Sea told Splash today.

Travel restrictions brought in across the world thanks to the spread of coronavirus have left tens of thousands of seafarers working at sea for far longer than their normal contracts stipulate. New data compiled by the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Maritime Employers’ Council has found that 150,000 seafarers will need crew changes by May 15. This number is up by 50% from 100,000 when ICS first highlighted the problem with national governments and the G20.

The latest Seafarers Happiness Index report, published this week by The Mission to Seafarers, has given some insight into the lives of seafarers during the global Covid-19 pandemic. The report has revealed that seafarer happiness is lower, with clear concerns about current safety and welfare provision for those serving at sea.

“There is a sense of constant dread and even paranoia creeping in. Seafarers are not only dealing with normal cargo operations but are also coping with precautions, sanitising and living under a constant fear of infection. Ironically, this can make them feel even more vulnerable and susceptible to the virus,” the report states.

Seafarers are reporting greater levels of fatigue and burn out, as they are forced to keep on working without a sense of when they might be heading back home on leave.

Steven Jones, founder of the Seafarers Happiness Index, commented: “It is paramount that industry calls for seafarers to be recognised as key workers are acted upon and that we support those who are maintaining our global supply chains. Protecting our seafarers is key to protecting our industry. It is our duty and responsibility to provide them with all the tools needed to be safe, particularly while many are prevented from returning home.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. The seamans mission are good ones to talk.
    They close their seamans mission and do not allow ship staff to go there in port. Why dont they talk with port authorities to allow the seafarers to go there fr a bit of a break. .
    The guy who does this happiness index – does he do an analysis of any other profession ????

    1. Other profession being????? They are seaman’s mission and they will talk about seafarers out there sailing on high seas, away from their loved ones, constantly under great pressure from owners, charterers and stupid arrogant non cooperative shore office staff and not to forget the n number of rules and regulations out there!
      This is a post about seafarers and the happiness index guy is indeed doing a good job. Seafarers aren’t happy!



        1. I guess you have not been on a ship other than a cruise!?
          I see people on board and they work hard. My girlfriend is currently on board. It is not at all how you describe it. No or little possibility to visit even a bloody doc. No shore leaves…
          Friends sitting on board for already more than 6months, no ending to see!

          So if you don’t have valid things to say, you better stop talking

  2. What about us doing shore jobs.. we work 24 x 7.. what about us.. we even pay tax….

    1. Sure thing Deepak. Get back to sea then.
      Obviously you are one of those who think everything is all peachy on board and you are doing the toughest job in the world 24/7 and busy paying tax.

    2. Don’t grumble. You chose to be ashore so you can be with family. This is a big problem with guys who join shore jobs. Suddenly you forget your past and become so arrogant. I see this every single day.

      1. True.
        You just can not keep somebody on board endlessly without his consent.
        This is just the beginning.I am afraid there are going to be more such cases.

    3. Well during these hard days there should be a game of give and take. Why cannot the owners double the wages of the sailors ( all ranks) from the period they finish contract till they are repatriated. Also the sailors should understand the difficulties of the owners who due to covid 19 problem are not able to repatriate the crew. These days the sailing personals are all mercenaries and not professional. I sailed for almost 36 years and that too as an engineer the most difficult job in a ship. To complete my sea time I have sailed for 21 months continously without any mental strain. Nowadays 15 days beyond their contract the fellows go mental. A weak and useless generation and getting from bad to worse.

    4. You are definitely working as ass slogger for your boss if you work 24 x 7. You are not working, but you are showing off that you are working 24 x 7 to impress your boss. Chuck this habit first. If you dont know what the safarers go through then just shut your bloody mouth. The captain diverted the ship for his crew. Do you even fucking have an idea of staying away from family for 1 year. You people in india cant stay lockdown at home for 2 months and you are putting a comment on saefarer who are lockdown for one year. For your info seafarers pay tax more than you do. However, if they complete thier nre time, they donot have to pay tax. Read the books to increase your shitty knowledge and visit a doctor to check development of your brain.

  3. Of course not a nice situation, everybody wants to go home to their families as planned.

    -Not more than a decade ago the terms at sea were quite a bit longer. So let us not blow this situation out of proportion, keep calm and stay disciplined. It will pass! Keep your spirits and hopes up. Do your sports on board and your karaoke, your reading. The most important person in determining your mental health is yourself!

    -seamen requesting an extension of their contract stay on board, never get denied this because of fears of stress and fatigue. It normally gets permitted.

    stay safe!

    1. Dear Capt Martijn
      It’s just good to say stay calm do karoake etc etc. But if a seafarer is stuck for about 10months and that is due to a master because he himself was not confident for port inspection. And moreover if the capt unable to provide good food, provisions for the crew despite company is paying a huge amount for provision then what to do. Company knows it all but due to covid they cannot get him off and he continued to squeeze the crew provision. Don’t look for crew welfare never speak to anyone,zero socialist.

    2. What a nonsense You are saying! It seems You have been on wooden boats at sea and 200 years back. He he.

  4. However if you were on board and your loved one had a bout of covid19 I’m sure you would get back to your karaoke and reading a book knowing full well that none of the governments or the company you work for give a shit about sailors. Cheers.

    1. Cpt.Martijn.
      I don’t know if u r sailing in this decade or tge previous, any way this is totally different than the normal situation in any decade. It’s not like extending a contract or ur reliever being late. The Seamen/women has lost that hope which is what a seafarer do have “may be next port or the other”.
      I was lucky that I was repatriated this month and now am at a quarantine facility. I had my crew with fatigue of thinking about there families.
      Atleast in a way it’s good that ur home, cos ur kind of leadership does not suite this era.
      And on what ships do have that time nowadays to have fun with Karaoke and book time do let me know to join those companies in future. God bless all Seafarers and hope let them be home soon.
      Cpt. Menama Rala

  5. Hi Capt Martijn,
    I acknowledge your comments and here with would like to emphasize the phrase “a decade ago”.
    How the profession has evolved in the last decade will not comment on that. As a fellow seafarer you must be aware of the same, especially as a master.
    A person walks through a dark tunnel with the hope and knowledge that there is end to it. If that hope is taken away, you know what happens.
    In today’s scenario the fear is of the unknown.

    1. All these news frequently but still no out come. No one is listening. I am stranded after leaving the ship and now nowhere to go.

  6. At the moment I think the seafaring staff has the dirty end of the stick. If we want to make their life easier in times like this we guys ashore can ensure that.
    Our life is not easy ashore but it is definitely easier than the ones on board.

  7. seafarers have the right to terminate their employment as much as the employers have to terminate theirs.

    1. True.
      You just can not keep somebody on board endlessly without his consent.
      This is just the beginning.I am afraid there are going to be more such cases.

  8. I am very sympathetic to the people sailing but I must express my view also. I have been following your various articles in lots of places on the internet.
    My husband sailed on ships for more than 40 years as a Captain and he was at sea for approximately 1 year at a time. If alive, he would be ashamed to see the actions of today’s Captains that you glorify in this article. Its a shame. These days in most countries they are the Essential Workers and instead of being proud of their jobs they are a SHAME.
    You journalists are a bigger shame glorifying these few people. If you are an Essential worker, then do your job as an essential worker. It’s like today a doctor saying that he wants his leave and must travel to a fancy place for his holiday (in these pandemic times). Or maybe like a soldier saying that he won’t go to the front lines or to war because he is due for leave.
    You journalists should please glorify the wonderful 99.9% of the seagoing staff on ships who are doing such a fantastic job keeping the world commerce moving while the various government authorities are working to get systems in place to arrange for relief.
    If people are tired with mental health problems after just a few months of sailing, they should take up babysitting and not sailing.
    Regards, Ms Chin

    1. Ms Chin,
      Appreciate your comments which is indeed a tight slap on the written.
      Duty is duty irrespective of the months in service, few months more no difference.
      We used to complete 9 months before being a officer but now all starts jumping with 3 months onwards.
      The act is not appreciated my me anyway being a seafarer.

      1. Jolly,

        Tell us What is the Master’s job? Seems you have had a long long inning at sea. Tel us wages, good food, 4-month contract, I seem to have wasted 43 years. I might as well learn, it is never too late as they say.

    2. Ms Chin
      Who are you to judge mariners turned into prisoners, after expiration of their cotracted duties ?
      It is worse then on war.
      Some of them got mental issues of desperation, powerless and uncertaininty.

    3. There is no glory or honour, new folks will join, the ship will start dancing in wave as before.
      Be happy every one.
      And Capt is always correct.

    4. Dear Mrs Ho Chin
      Good day

      I believe you are totally misinformed and your comments misplaced.
      I’ve been at sea for 37 years and a Captain for 24. You cannot compare shipping today with what it was 10-15 years ago. The greater challenges, reduced number of crew, quick turnarounds, commercial pressures, inspection regimes and long hours of work etc.have definitely put a lot of strain on seafarers which your husband never faced. Neither did I, fifteen years ago as a Master. If your husband worked in today’s shipping word he would not have lasted for half of the 40 years you say he was Captain.
      Please do not pass judgement. Was your husband calmly sailing out at sea while his family faced deadly life threatening challenges? I’m sure he did not !
      Your comments are unjustified. You cannot understand the times we are in presently.
      Please sit at home in your rocking chair and don’t demean seafarers by calling them babysitters.
      An apology would be in order out of respect for your late husband and his mates at sea !!!
      WApp : +91-9819100505

  9. 100% agree with Ms Ho Chin. What kind of tragedy is this? The matter is just a couple of months contract extention, so what?? Are you being paid your wages? Is it ok with food, water etc. on board? So what is a problem? Wait a month, all will be fixed and come back to normal.
    And if every captain (not with capital letter) will feel free to devert a multi million dollars busines just because himself or any one else on board “feels unhappy” by any reason – that will be a real katastrophe

    1. Captain Alex
      You will soon see all the captains will divert. This is a beggining. If things dont come under control in next one month, there will be ships visiting the country of the seafarers and seafarers will stop to work. Presently the seafarers are only physically present onboard. Mentally at home. This is a dangerous situation for safety of everyone. You say couple of month contract extension. Now tell me couple of months after completing 9 months onboard. Its a long time. I am sure you are sitting at shore slogging your ass around to your boss for promotion. Only such ex seafarers can comment like this orelse may be you only had been on ship to become a burden on others. I hope you have sailed as a master or you only use Captain before your name.

  10. @ Ms Chin
    What you wrote is quite harsh to all the seafarers around the globe. Nobody should get to decide how long a seafarer should stay on-board after finishing his contract other then the seafarer himself, weather he wants to extend his contract or not it’s up to him and not anyone else. With due regards to your husband, seafarers of today are fighting battles which didn’t exist 40 years ago and yes we are excellent at babysitting and take that seriously too.
    Seeing a family member work and working yourself is quite different ma’am I hope you understand. It’s a long discussion and I know many of you will not agree with me, but to sum it all up I just wanna say if Seafarer gets fatigued accidents happen and safety is compromised and if you are not a seafarer you have no right to comment on these sensitive issues.

    1. @Ms Chin.
      Now a days Seafarers are more closer with there families than urs 40years ago, also the wifes of seafarers nowadays awaits for there’s husbands to come home soon finishing the contracts, not like how it was 40years ago when the seafarers were away for 1year or more.
      Any way thats not the point, before I disembark recently the cargo was loaded and discharged as usual and kicked out the ship to sea, they didn’t care about the seafarers well being.
      There were 2crew with urine stones, they couldn’t go to the hospital even.
      How will you feel when the world don’t care for your life.
      (40 years ago it was the golden era of shipping- party o/b, part at port, days in port, booze, girls, no email communication with/to ship, long sea passages, higher number of crew o/b, no such a number of inspection, audits, certificates, requirements, regulalations)
      I stayed 13 months o/b without any problem in 2005..but the shore personnel distroyed the mental well being of seafaring and unfortunately after 2013 it’s so hectic to stay o/b after completion of contract.
      Cpt. Menama

  11. I guess the guy will sure receive a countless job offers in the future!

  12. Its not about one master diverting a ship.
    Can you cross your heart and say at crew welfare is not at the bottom of your list of priorities.
    How else is the sea staff going to get attention, by blowing horns on labour day!!
    Give us a time frame , we are working hard besides being overdue.
    All the naysayers give us a time frame , until when?
    Nobody can say when will this be over, the experts keep revising their statements every day on the probable end of this epedemic.
    The issues is not extending, the issue is not knowing

  13. I repatriated at end of April and now staying in a quarantine facility. I will be going home soon but I feel for my fellow seafarers. Listen folks if the companies can coordinate properly with agents, government of crew members country and the repatriated country. The crew changes can be done now. It’s that we who were onboard while the pandemic knows. The rest of the world didn’t bother doing the crew changes. It is yet in the last in the agenda.
    This is why the seafarers are angry now. The pandemic started in Jan this year, that time non of us complained, we waited untill the world to settle things out. Now it’s May..tell me those of who are at home sitting with there families, some ex 40years ago seafarers wifes, some tough ex captains HOW LONG DOES THE SEAFARER HAS TO STAY PUT ONBOARD? ANOTHER 2MONTHS,3,4 A YEAR..
    The shore teams should do there job properly to mitigate such incidents.

  14. Bottom line is nobody cares for seafarers.
    Countless regulations to follow but for welfare they haveMLC that too is Master’s headache.

    Sailing now is not like what it was even 20 years back.
    I have been sailing for over 40 years and have done 14-15 months some times in 80,s.But now in Offshore I find more than 60 days too much.
    Pressure is too high.
    Old days sometimes times 1-2 msgs/week to reply but now 20-30 mails everyday and all of them need urgent reply.Nobody cares about your rest hours
    I am afraid more such incidents might follow if this Covid situation doesn’t come under control.
    I may not support fully the Master’s action but I have full sympathy towards him.
    Take care all seafarers.This too shall pass.

  15. There is a job which is designated and being paid ashore, there job is to ”change crew’.
    If wait for all these to end and do the job as they’re used to do ‘normal crew change’, is it fare?
    see this isn’t like normal circumstances, so the multi million dollar business can pay a couple of bucks extra to do the crew changes, where is the IMO, ILO, MLC, UN, etc who was saying ”SEAFARERS WE HERE YOU”,,
    If it was for another implementing of a regulation or amendment etc ya by now all parties might have nicely organised every thing and sent it onboard so we can run like idiots to full fill the requirements.
    Why not use the hub points around the world, embarking and disembarking crews kept at quarantine, all companies, agents unite and get to gether with IMO, ILO, UN and flag states try to change the crews who are stuck on ships.
    If my company can do that kind a organizing and do the crew changes why the others can’t.
    Thing is change of crew is in every one list at the bottom.
    There will be further incidents if nothing is organised.

  16. When a Master feels, he is over stressed & worked out, is it safe for him to pass through the congested & restricted waters? If he does, isn’t he putting the sailors Lives on Board, the Vessel, and the environment in to great Risk? That too a Tanker Vessel.
    As a Master, he has taken a correct decision, better for all concerned.

    1. hello sir, hope all well ur end. are u in mumbai or native.
      i am also of the opinion that the master did the correct thing, and we as sailors need have been hit hardest due to this pandemic , be it mentally or socially..

      companies only send a message , appreciate your efforts but everyone is banking on governemnt- saying LOCKDOWN HAI KYAA KARE – SIGNOFF NAHI HO SAKTA..

      all companies shld presurrize the government to act in this regard before it is too late..
      very soon – we will have another such incident.

  17. As a master, he has taken correct action with present scenario/route .I am a master for 20yrs, Life at sea nowadays days are not as it was 20years before. Tremendous pressure for the senior officer’s onboard with quick turnaround between ports which includes port inspection /repairs/surveys/cargo operation working seven days, no Sunday /holidays. Unless the child cries, mother does not feed.

  18. We need to see the aftermath effects that same Master will be re- employed with his present employer.

  19. Just miss those day when seafarers used to stay on board for 1 year plus and drunk like no tomorrow. We work hard and play hard. Current day those welfare are taken away even a simple shore leave. We must always need patience and bless what we had. Many people are no food on table and suffer.

    1. It’s very funny to see this zinbads and jack sparrows still alive..talking whome was suppose to be in navy than in merchant ships at 1970’s…wow such tough people…ha…
      I wish to exchange my next contract with one of this tough Zinbads and to see if they can survive one week onboard with new shipping industry…
      Any monkey can survive the rough seas nowadays..basically we don’t give a shit about rough seas and bad weather nowadays..
      This is a total different era of shipping…the worst sea conditions are better than the commercial pressure put by idiots from ashore..

  20. Moral of the story: Sealine is not meant for sissy cucks. ???Rough seas and a shitty situation make an expert Mariner. Don’t throw mud at each other. Be a Mariner and act like one even after sign off. Those Masters did what they thought what is right according to their onboard and mental situation. Those concern will look into it…..Missing my waves ?, was about to have my first command…. Fellow Mariner(Capt. *****)..✌️✌️

    1. Hahaha. Well said. I have been a proud seafarer and still proud of profession. Each one is important in their profession. Same as today’s health workers. They are diligently doing their job and are not backing off. They are at highest stress. No leave, working 24/7 at times and isolated. Same as shipbuilders, shippers, ship crew, owners, managers, ship chandlers and even scrapyards. Remove one shiping fails Each one has their tough times in their own sense and take decisions best to their ability and knowledge. As they say – when going gets tough, the tough gets going.

  21. A courageous decision by the Master. If the facts as reported are not in dispute I doubt he had any other choice. I wish him luck and a safe passage home.

  22. Well during these hard days there should be a game of give and take. Why cannot the owners double the wages of the sailors ( all ranks) from the period they finish contract till they are repatriated. Also the sailors should understand the difficulties of the owners who due to covid 19 problem are not able to repatriate the crew. These days the sailing personals are all mercenaries and not professional. I sailed for almost 36 years and that too as an engineer the most difficult job in a ship. To complete my sea time I have sailed for 21 months continously without any mental strain. Nowadays 15 days beyond their contract the fellows go mental. A weak and useless generation and getting from bad to worse. The ships are much better and life thousand times comfortable. What if a war had broken out. I think all these people would have deserted the ships to be with their families.

  23. yr girl friend sailing with u, seems u the one on a cruise !!
    how can u complain about life at sea ?

Back to top button