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New York/Canadian-Media: Around 200,000 cargo ship crew members are stranded at sea, beyond the length of their contracts due to COVID-19 restrictions, placing a major strain on their physical and mental health. New UN guidelines were published on Thursday, aimed at helping the industry better protect human rights at sea, as new COVID variants threaten to further delay crew turnover.
The UN estimates that some 200,000 seafarers are stranded at sea due to COVID-19 restrictions. Image credit: IMO/Hedi Marzougui
The Human Rights Due Diligence Tool, provides a wide-ranging checklist co-developed by the UN Global Compact, the UN Human Rights Office, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), for all businesses involved in the maritime industry.
The agencies are warning about a possible surge in the number of crewmembers stranded at sea due to new COVID-19 variants and government-imposed travel restrictions.
Unchecked, they fear the situation could return to the heights of the September 2020 crew change crisis, when 400,000 seafarers were stranded at sea around the world.
“Seafarers are at the heart of the global supply chain. They are also at the mercy of COVID-19 restrictions on travel and transit. This has led to hundreds of thousands of seafarers being denied repatriation, crew changes, shore leave and ultimately being forced to stay working on ships long beyond their contracts”, explained IMO Secretary General, Kitack Lim.
He added that the new tool represents an important step forward for the maritime industry. It provides a practical approach for cargo owners, charterers, and logistics providers to “ensure [seafarers] are put first and foremost as they work to deliver the goods that people need and want”.