India Markets open in 7 hrs 8 mins

COVID-19: MUI collaborates with UN body to help Indian seafarers stranded on ships

·2-min read

New Delhi, Sep 27 (PTI) Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic leaving around four lakh global seafarers, including thousands of Indians, stranded on ships, India's oldest union of merchant navy officers MUI has collaborated with the United Nations to assist these sailors.

The Seafarers Crisis Action Team (SCAT) has been established by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), a specialised UN agency and a global standard-setting authority of safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping.

'The COVID-19 pandemic has put seafarers around the world in precarious situations... Some 4 lakh seafarers from across the globe, including thousands of Indian seafarers, are now stranded on ships and continuing to work but unable to be relieved in a deepening crew change crisis which threatens trade and maritime safety,' said the Maritime Union of India (MUI).

Travel restrictions mean some cannot leave their ships or be repatriated home, or even get urgent medical assistance, it said and added that others have seen their contracts unilaterally terminated or have been quarantined on board ships for more than 14 days, without getting paid.

Despite multiple pleas to governments across the globe to designate seafarers as essential key workers and to facilitate their travel, the number of seafarers whose contracts have been extended by several months has continued to increase, the MUI added.

'Some seafarers have now been at sea for around 18 months without a break, well beyond the 11-month limit set out in the Maritime Labour Convention. Besides, the four lakh seafarers stuck at sea, another four lakh are unable to join ships,' it said.

The body said that under the circumstances, India's oldest union of merchant navy officers has announced to 'collaborate with the UN to help resolve individual cases of Indian seafarers through SCAT established by the IMO'.

'Over 37,000 seafaring members of MUI will fortunately get benefitted by the UN's SCAT mechanism as our Union is affiliated to London-headquartered International Transport Workers' Federation which closely works with the IMO,' Amar Singh Thakur, General Secretary, MUI, told PTI.

Thakur added: 'Apart from providing assistance to the Indian seafarers under IMO's SCAT mechanism, MUI will also closely liaise with the Ministry of Shipping of India and Indian embassies and consulates across the globe for offering assistance to Indian seafarers during difficult times.' Expressing serious concerns over some seafarers stuck at sea for about 18 months without a break, Thakur said this threatens the fundamentals of ship safety standards which the IMO has worked to develop for the past six decades.

'Overly tired and mentally exhausted seafarers are being asked to continue to work aboard over 60,000 cargo ships across the globe. The safety of navigation is in peril unfortunately,' Thakur emphasised.

In the prevailing scenario, the MUI through SCAT mechanism will provide round-the-clock advice, counselling and assistance to Indian seafarers and their family members, he said. PTI NAM MKJ