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 The previous fear of blacklisting has been replaced by fear of the consequences of Covid-19, and at least one master has knowingly asserted his authority despite legal liability threats from the owner,” David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.”