A “humanitarian crisis” threatens sailors

While 90% of world trade passes by sea, crews are prohibited from disembarking. Some 300 companies and organizations that have signed the Neptune Declaration are calling for them to be considered “Essential workers”.

They play “A crucial role in maintaining the fluidity of world trade”, explain the BBC, and yet, they are not seen as essential in the fight against the pandemic. The crews of the merchant navy are at the heart of a “Humanitarian crisis”, say the signatories of the Declaration of Neptune, which brings together some 300 companies and organizations around the world.

While “Over 90% of world trade, from household items to medical supplies, is shipped by sea”, governments around the world often prohibit crews from disembarking because of the pandemic.

AP Møller-Mærsk, the world’s largest container ship owner, the giant MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company), but also the oil companies Shell and BP, the behemoth of consumer products Unilever, the Rio Tinto mining group as well as “Shipping companies, unions and the Davos Economic Forum” have partnered with the Neptune Declaration since its launch in December 2020.

They are all asking that sailors no longer be prevented from setting foot on land to return home and that governments commit to “Implement crew change protocols”. They warn the global elite gathered (virtually) in Davos this week that “Ignoring the risk to the mental and physical well-being of crews threatens global supply chains”.

For Margi Van Gogh, logistics and transport manager at the Davos Forum:

There is a need for governments and key actors to act quickly and in a concerted manner to protect the lives and livelihoods of the 1.6 million sea workers. ”

According to the International Chamber of Merchant Marine (ICS) and the international chamber of shipowners Bimco, 1.6 million people serve on merchant ships worldwide, of which 100,000 are rotated each month, according to theICS, 50,000 of them disembarking ships when 50,000 embark. Crew members work “Generally ten to twelve hours per shift, seven days a week, to equip ships, with contracts of four or six months, followed by a period of leave”, recalls the British media. But, with the Covid-19 crisis, “Hundreds of thousands of crew members spend long periods at sea, well beyond the expiration of their contract”.

For the Secretary General ofICS, Guy plates:

Seafarers are, unacceptably, the collateral victims of the war on Covid-19, and this must stop. ”


The BBC website was established in November 1997. In about five years it has published 1.5 million web pages. Based in London, it has regional offices in Glasgow, Belfast and Cardiff, and relays BBC correspondents everywhere


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