Last Updated on September 4, 2020 by Amit Abhishek
If there is one community that contributes and suffer the most after the medical employees are the fellow seafarers. As we are heading towards the normalcy we need to acknowledge the effects of COVID 19 on the shipping industry in general and hardship on seafarers.
Not just they suffer the mental baggage to work beyond their contract time; unable to return to their home. But also face emotional condition as many have their relatives onshore fighting this deadly virus.
This is an unprecedented time where we all are stuck with something never been seen before, there are different level of impact on the world, were the mass exchange of products, goods, food, fuel, in short, all of the economies is dependent largely on the shipping industry.
But yet we fail to recognize our unsung heroes of the sea, this reminds me of a line from a French soldier during world war one, that had returned from the trenches.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say we’ve forgotten our sea heroes that are working days and night just to keep the world economy running. This article is going to be exclusively about the impact of Covid-19 on the seafarer, marine students, and the shipping industry in general.
COVID Impact on World’s Seafarers And Their family
The zoonotic virus, COVID-19 is something that was not expected by anyone, it’s very vital to maintain personal hygiene and practice social distancing at all level.
During the initial time of COVID-19 we all come across the news which seems history during the timescale of the Coronavirus outbreak, the news about Britain registered Diamond princess, a passenger vessel, where the whole of the cruise ship was put under quarantine off the coast of Japan.
At the time of reading this article, we all have experienced what it feels to be isolated from our family and friends, the impact that it had on us. This is somewhat seafarer feels while onboard carrying out their duties with the wish to come back to their loved one safely.
Thousands of seafarers lay stranded at sea with expired contracts for months. Still now company are making arrangements for safe and efficient crew change for the seafarers on their breaking point.
On the point of keeping his name secret a seafarer on a RPSL ship told they are under severe stress to work while the company still tries to manage safe departure. Even the ones who do came back says they are unwilling to join the ship soon considering the second wave of this deadly virus.
As the calendar is divided into B.C.E and A.C.E (Before common era and after common era) or Before Christ and Anno Domino, we can divide in term of seafarering as B.C and A.C (before covid and After covid).
Before COVID struck the world there was already a limited number of options for a seafarer to enjoy by going out during shore leave and enjoy exotic food of different countries, etc but now seafarer doesn’t have the limited options too, the only thing that one can do now is to stay on board without the time to let their mind roam free and this is taking a mental toll on them.
Let us not forget it is them who keep the global supply system operational. About 90% of all global trade pass through maritime or river transport and require seafarers to operate the ships.
If they are not been looked after well the already stressed global shipping industry may face deep human resource crisis in the upcoming months if things don’t gets in order.
The Big Losses In Shipping Industry
A large number of companies are under stress and facing losses and so are the ones in shipping. Big shipping companies like the A.P. Moller – The Maersk Group have reported a 16% decrease in its Ocean trade alone in the latest quaterly report published by the company.
While the same report shows a 14% decrease in its terminal business. Overall the Maersk Group receive a 6.5% decrease in its total earning across the industries.
For the fifth-largest shipping company, the Hapag-Lloyd reports a net loss of 4% by volume of trade roughly 5.8 million TEU. Not to mention the financial losses and financial stress.
For many small companies the situation is even more dire as they operate on a port to port basis and now struggles to even secure the operational and port charges. Many seafarers within these companies are still to be discharged post their completion of contract.
Some even reports they had pay cuts and other report large dues going back to 3-4 months in time.
The covid situation had caused a demand fall over. This makes most ships sitting idle or doing whatever work they can get for the while. With slow recovery rates and no solid news for global economic revival the situation is going to be worse for small and medium level companies that suffers the most.
The Uncertain Job Market Since COVID 19
let us not forget the upcoming navigating officers and engineers that are right now in their academic year waiting for covd-19 to finish so that they can give exams and get placed or look for company to get placed.
It should be kept in mind, people join the marine field for the love for travel, exploration, fascination for the sea, money, etc. After the COVID phase.
It’s no rocket science to say, the whole world economy will be in the abyss with this there will be cutting of jobs and more opportunity for the fraudster to dope innocent college pass out’s.
The people who are freshly out of college or unemployed will be the worst affected and will be more vulnerable to doping.
The state should take initiative along with the academy to help students with presenting the right opportunity. There’s an adverse effect on students of the final year, that was going to get placed in different shipping company but due to adverse situations, it is canceled or delayed with no specific time to restore them.
Then on top is the delay in mmd examinations, their assessment, orals and testimonials. Many a students complain they are not allowed to apply for the papers and their fees are refunded.
While others confirmed the covid had delayed their mmd certification by 4 months. One fourth engineer ( Abhinav Chaudry ) has told us that he was delayed by 5 months as his last uncleared paper got delayed in COVID situation; even when he did appear it took longer than usual to get his class 4 certificate.
So its been double baggage for seafarers in terms of mental and carrier aspects. As his company has told Chaudhary he has to face long waiting before the next trip under the circumstances.
The IMO Has Recognized The Seriousness of The Issue
While it is impossible to predict the duration of the current situation, the people stuck onboard with perfect physical health are complaining about mental fatigue.
A few want to get back to their family which needs them, one of the seafarers writes to IMO about how exhausted she feels being well beyond her contract length.
IMO had produced a detailed article on the subject and is available for public view on : http://www.imo.org/en/MediaCentre/HotTopics/Pages/Support-for-seafarers-during-COVID-19.aspx
In that article, the IMO has mentioned the vulnerabilities and struggles of the common seafarer and what is been done to minimize it parsing the work of some NGOs and organizations that took the initiative to bring in a change for good. Following this, crew change is slowly but steadily been undergoing.
In that article the IMO had written; Whereas other vessel crew writes how discharging of cargo by allowing 60 stevedores may expose the crew to hazard, where stevedores will be in a makeshift tent and following social distancing would be virtually impossible.
The threat onboard is real, which is increased by the frustration mounting top of it due to the immobility of the crew. The frustration boils down to anger if someones close is contracted by COVID and a seafarer could not leave to help their family from half the world apart.
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