Stuck and shattered sailors threaten global supply lines


London / Singapore — “I’ve seen a grown-up man cry,” says Captain Tejinder Singh, who hasn’t set foot on arid land for more than seven months and doesn’t know when to go home.

“We are forgotten and taken for granted,” he said, tens of thousands of sailors like him stuck in the ocean as the delta variant of the coronavirus causes havoc on the shore. Describes the plight that is facing.

“People don’t know how their supermarkets are stockpiled.”

Shin and most of his 20 powerful crew traversed the world in exhausted Odyssey. I was stuck on a crowded beach for weeks waiting to unload cargo from India to the United States instead of from China. He was talking to Reuters from the Pacific when his ship was currently heading to Australia.

According to the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), they are one of about 100,000 seafarers who are stuck at sea beyond their usual mission of usually 3-9 months, many of them even a day on land. I never rest. An additional 100,000 people are stuck on the shore and cannot board the boats needed to make a living.

Variants of Delta, a devastating region of Asia home to many of the world’s 1.7 million commercial seafarers, provide land access to many countries, and in some cases even for treatment, to visiting crew members. I urged you to shut it down. ICS estimates that only 2.5% of seafarers (1 in 40) are vaccinated.

The United Nations describes this situation as a humanitarian crisis at sea and states that the government should classify seafarers as essential workers. Given that ships transport about 90% of world trade, the growing crisis poses a major threat to the supply chains we depend on, from oil and iron to food and electronics. Bring.

The bulk carrier Master Singh in northern India is not optimistic about landing soon. His last sea stint lasted 11 months. He said his Indian and Filipino crew lived outside a hut of about 15 feet x 6 feet.

“It’s hard to stay in the sea for a very long time,” he added, adding that he had heard reports of sailors committing suicide on another vessel.

“The most difficult question to answer is when the kids ask,’Daddy when you go home,'” he said from his ship, which was recently carrying coal.

India and the Philippines are both caught up in the vicious wave of COVID-19, accounting for more than one-third of the world’s commercial seafarers and the ICS secretary general, accounting for more than 80% of the world’s commercial fleet Said Guy Platten.

Migrant worker
Migrant workers line up at suburban resorts on a special train to Bettiah, Bihar, on a bus to Amritsar Station, after the government has relaxed the restrictions imposed as a precautionary measure for COVID-19. .. May 21, 2020, Amritsar, India. (Narinder Nanu / AFP via Getty Images)

“I’m seriously worried that the second global crew change crisis is imminent,” he told Reuters, and 200,000 seafarers couldn’t be rescued in 2020. He mentioned the one-month crisis.

People are desperate

In a snapshot of the situation, nearly 9% of commercial seafarers boarded the ship this month beyond the expiration of their contract. This is according to data compiled by a nonprofit group of the Global Maritime Forum from just over 7% in May. Together, 10 captains are responsible for more than 90,000 seafarers.

The maximum permissible contract period is 11 months, as stipulated in the United Nations Sailor Convention.

According to industry insiders, an average of about 50,000 seafarers spin a ship each month, and 50,000 spin a ship, but there are no exact numbers, but that number is a fraction of that. ..

The new crew crisis stems from restrictions imposed by major maritime nations in Asia, such as South Korea, Taiwan and China, where many of the world’s busiest container ports are located. Requirements range from mandatory testing of crew members coming from or visiting a particular country to a complete ban on crew changes and mooring operations.

“Asia is really struggling and Japan and Singapore are the only countries that can make some regular crew changes,” said Synergy Marine Group, chief executive officer of the 14,000 crew. Said Rajesh Unni.

Epoch Times Photo
A cargo ship loaded with containers departing from the port of Haikou, Hainan Province, southern China on May 17, 2021. (STR / AFP via Getty Images)

“The problem is that some people are desperately wanting to go home because they have finished their tenure, and some are on land who are anxious to return to the ship to make a living.”

Global brand, attention

According to a March International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) survey, the crisis has left almost half of commercial seafarers considering leaving the industry, or not knowing whether to stay or go.

This suggests that a labor crisis is imminent that burdens the world’s powerful 50,000 merchant fleet and threatens the integrity of the world’s supply chain.

The shortage of container ships carrying consumer products and log jams in ports around the world has already spilled over into the retail industry, with freight rates skyrocketing to record levels and pushing up commodity prices.

“We don’t have enough crew anyway. The shipping industry was working on a very lean model,” said the CEO of Columbia Ship Management, a key ship manager, international ships and crew. Mark O’Neill, who is also the president of the Association of Management, said.

“But now all of these problems are occurring and a large number of seafarers are being taken out of the available crew pool,” he said, which could result in the vessel becoming inoperable. I added.

ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton said seafarers were being pushed to physical and mental limits.

“Some people in the industry estimate that 25 percent fewer seafarers are on board than they were before the pandemic,” he added. “We warned that global brands need to be prepared for the moment when some of these tired people finally snap.”

Shots for sailors

COVID-19 infections in India have receded from their peak, but countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia are tackling a surge in cases and imposing a new blockade.

Epoch Times Photo
On July 5, 2021, the street was blocked in Ruili City, which borders Myanmar in southwestern Yunnan Province, China, as part of measures against the COVID-19 coronavirus. (STR / AFP via Getty Images)

“If it gets worse, it can work, or if Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia and Ukraine (other crew centers) experience the same problem, the wheels will really come off,” O’Neill added.

The importance of the assessment was repeated by Esben Poulsson, Chairman of the Board of Directors of ICS.

“For my 50 years in the maritime industry, the crisis of crew change was unprecedented in the catastrophic impact it had on seafarers around the world,” he told his board in June. Told.

Most seafarers come from developing countries struggling to secure adequate immunization supplies, and much of the maritime industry is at the bottom of the priority list.

According to ICS Platten, governments with high vaccine availability have “moral responsibility” to seafarers.

“They must follow the initiative of the United States and the Netherlands to vaccinate non-native crew members who deliver goods to ports. They must prioritize vaccination of sailors,” he said. Added.

A total of 55 member states of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations shipping agency, classify seafarers as essential workers, said David Hammond, CEO of the charity Human Rights at Sea.

The IMO said the latest figures show that the number has increased to 60 member states and 2 associate member states.

This classification gives seafarers more freedom to travel and return to their homes, improving access to vaccines.

Hammond called on all other nations to follow suit.

“Overall, the global shipping industry is part of the $ 14 trillion maritime supply chain and seems unable to take care of 1.7 million seafarers,” he added.

Jonathan sole and Rosslan Casaune