ARE SEAFARERS KEY WORKERS?
On the 10th anniversary of International Day of the Seafarer, coming at a time when global economy is crippled by the Coronavirus Pandemic, credit must be given to Seafarers who have labored tenaciously at great pains and deprivations to ensure the delivery of medications, essential cargo and other necessities to sustain economies and stave off the fiery intrusion of Covid19-a diseases that has disrupted human activities across continents.
Shipping is the life blood of the global economy. Without shipping, intercontinental trade, the bulk transport of raw materials, and the import/export of affordable food and manufactured goods would simply not be possible.
There are over 50,000 merchant ships transporting cargo from country to country. The world fleet is registered in over 150 nations, and manned by over a million seafarers of virtually every nationality.
The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres supported calls on all countries to formally designate seafarers and other marine personnel as “key workers” and ensure crew changeovers can safely take place.
Therefrom, United Nations Agencies such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have asked Governments to facilitate trade by ship and allow crew movements during the coronavirus pandemic, while protecting seafarers to ensure they can continue to deliver vital goods, including medical supplies and food.
The agencies called for requirements and recommendations, including provisions for medical care and extensions of medical certificates of seafarers, and exempting inspectors and key personnel responsible for ship inspections and issuing Ship Sanitation Certificates from national restrictions on movement.
Specifically, the UN bodies called for exemptions from national restriction on movements of seafarers and port workers to facilitate global shipping.
Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization, IMO, Mr. Kitack Lim, in his appeal said “I implore Governments to do more, today. This cannot wait. This is now a real safety issue, endangering the safe operation of ships. We cannot expect seafarers to stay at sea forever. Governments must allow shipping to continue moving by getting seafarers to their homes, and to their ships to work”.
Responding, Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh said everything possible would be done to keep shipping going.
In his words “Our determination to ensure that shipping continues during this trying time remains unwavering and this is why we have continued to come up with measures to keep the global shipping chain moving in line with the recommendations of the International Maritime Organization (IMO),” Jamoh stated.
He said the Agency was aware of the difficulties seafarers would be facing and the need to keep them in job even beyond the pandemic.
According to Jamoh, “One of our major priorities is to keep our seafarers in job while not jeopardizing their safety in terms of contracting the deadly virus. We have, therefore, come up with a notice that would extend the validity of their certificates, for those of them that might be expiring soon. We have also issued guidelines that would regulate crew change during this pandemic.”
Modern Ships are very sophisticated and expensive. The cargo they carry are equally costly, delicate and even hazardous.
The oceans and seas which Seafarers ply could be rough, dangerous and life threatening. They are at sea most part of the year delivery good for citizens and industries.
Without these supplies, the economy of many countries will collapse.
Therefore, if Seafarers are not key, essential workers which group of professionals are?