COVID-19: Seafarers want unified approach for their welfare

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Ghanaian Seafarers are calling on governments of countries engaged in maritime trade to as a matter of urgency take a unified approach to protect the welfare of seafarers.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a large numbers of seafarers across the globe, including Ghanaian seafarers, are having to extend their service on board ships after many months at sea; unable to be replaced after long duty or be repatriated to their home countries.

Teddy Mensah, First Vice President of the Maritime Professional Club, underscored the need for a level playing field among maritime countries to enable seafarers stay in business. “COVID-19 travel restrictions and closed borders offer a major challenge, preventing scheduled crew change-overs from taking place; and this has some health effects on the seafarers in terms of stress,” he said.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) introduced some protocols and recommendations for crew-changes; but implementation by such countries is another issue, depending on intensity of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is good to think about it, and it is good to start working out something because it is a worldwide situation which must be handled; with the concerns of all the maritime countries, coming out with a consensus that ‘this is the way to go’ then governments adopting it and making the exact needed provisions will satisfy all.

“The IMO has given some guidelines for crew-changes; but then, we have to look at the practicality of it. For example, in Ghana if we allow for crew-changes with the conditions that were set, it is not as easy as it looks. Some guidelines include that the crew must be medically fit without the virus, and arrangements have to be made for the crew to leave the vessel to their home. If our borders are open and the borders of those countries are not open, how can these crews come home,” he queried.

General Secretary of the Club, Kwame Asamani, called for mass-testing of colleagues that are currently at home and quarantines for those that are about to on-board any vessels as crew in Ghana waters.

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