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SCI’s Center for Mariner Advocacy: Responding to Seafarers Trapped by COVID-19


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Due to the impact of COVID-19 restrictions, many seafarers remain on ship well beyond the international limit of 12 months, with some having served for 15 or 16 months. At the same time we are witnessing an increase in major maritime accidents and seafarer suicides. Simply put, many countries are not allowing for crew changes and crew repatriations, which is placing tremendous strain on mariners’ mental and physical health. In the coming weeks, the United Nations is holding its 75th General Assembly. Several United Nations agencies, including the IMO and ILO, have sent a joint statement to those who will gather at the UN General Assembly in New York City asking them to elevate the priority on the main agenda of addressing the crisis of crew changes so that progress might happen.

Doug Stevenson, Esq., who directed SCI’s Center for Seafarer Rights, has been active in assisting SCI and NAMMA (North American Maritime Ministry Association) in addressing this humanitarian crisis that is impacting seafarers around the globe. At NAMMA’s request, Doug drafted a letter for its members to send to The Honorable Keith Krach, the United States Department of State Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, asking him to give voice to this issue at the UN General Assembly meeting.

“The crew change crisis is spelled out in the Joint Statement by United Nations Specialized Agencies calling on governments to immediately recognize seafarers as key workers, and to take swift and effective action to eliminate obstacles to crew changes created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States already recognizes seafarers’ critical importance to the global economy by exempting them from entry restrictions contained in the various Presidential Proclamations suspending entry of persons who pose a risk of transmitting novel coronavirus. Accordingly, crew changes are allowed in United States ports. However, that is not the case in many countries, and it is imperative that the United States use its influence to help the hundreds of thousands of seafarers who are being adversely affected by the crew change crisis.” – Doug Stevenson, Esq.

This article was first published in the SCI’s e-newsletter.