Group raises $1.23 million fund to support seafarers impacted by COVID-19
The ITF Seafarers’ Trust (ITFST) is launching a $1.23 million (GBP 1 million) emergency fund to address the impact of the global pandemic on seafarers and their families.
Seafarers are being retained on vessels after sign-off, left ashore in foreign countries unable to return to their families, and deprived of information as port authorities ban crew change-overs and limit the movement of foreign nationals to curb the pandemic from spreading further, according to NGOs.
The crewing crisis has seen conditions onboard vessels deteriorate and is impacting seafarers’state of mind.
Meanwhile, the seafarers are reporting an increasing trend of non-payment of wages, contract extensions without informed consent, crews being left in foreign states to pay hotel bills and to seek flights home using their own funds.
Putting seafarers’ mental health and wellbeing at risk is also a safety risk for the shipping industry and trade flows, industry bodies have warned.
The fund, according to ITF aims to provide a lifeline for welfare services at risk due to the financial impact the virus has had on business and fundraising and activities.
The goal of the fund is to facilitate fast grant payments for specific projects to alleviate hardship, stress and isolation of seafarers and their families.
Chairman of the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, Dave Heindel, said: “At the best of times, seafarers struggle to get recognition for the amazing job they do ensuring the steady flow of household goods, food and commodities around the world,”
“Now they have the incredible stress of being stranded far away from their families at a time of extreme distress. It is critically important that the ITF Seafarers’ Trust is there for them at this time of need.”
The trust is working closely with the TK Foundation, a private foundation supporting non-profit maritime and youth programs, to ensure a coordinated approach to funding and a swift response to the issues arising from the pandemic’s impact on the maritime community.
The International Transport Workers Federation had said that thousands of seafarers employed on cruise ships are still stranded at sea as ports deny vessels the permission to dock amid restrictive measures adopted to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
ITF estimates that around 314 out of 385 cruise ships that are owned and operated by the major cruise lines are currently laid up. Many of the vessels have hundreds of seafarers onboard as governments refuse to allow them to disembark and transit through their ports and airports for repatriation.
“There are approximately 6,000 passengers onboard ships still at sea that are expected to disembark their passengers by the end of April. Some of our crew is unable to return home, and we will be providing them with food and housing,” Carnival Corporation said in a filing on March 31.
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