The International Labour Organization once again added its voice to the other organizations calling for action to address the plight of seafarers because of the restrictions related to the pandemic. The Governing Body of the labor organization adopted a resolution reiterating the messages expressed by the UN General Assembly, the International Maritime Organization, and many others regarding the hundreds of thousands of seafarers who have been at sea now up to 17 months or caught at home unable to reach their ships.
“The problems faced by seafarers resulting from efforts to contain the virus have lasted unacceptably long”, said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder. “These key workers continue to transport the food, medicines, and goods that we need, but their extended periods at sea, and the inability of seafarers ashore to relieve them, are simply unsustainable. The Resolution sets out the actions to be taken urgently.”
The resolution renews the emphasis on the need to address the same challenges which have been at the heart of the discussion since the spring of 2020. Specifically, it calls on ILO member states to Identify obstacles to crew changes and to establish and implement measurable, time-bound plans to ensure safe crew change and travel of seafarers. The resolution also repeats the call for the designation of seafarers as key workers to permit “safe and unhindered movement” for embarkation and disembarkation as well as now calling for the designation to permit shore leave for the crews on the ships.
The ILO asks members to consider the acceptance of internationally recognized documentation carried by seafarers as well as temporary measures, including waivers, exemptions, or other changes to the visa or documentation requirements.
The rights of seafarers set out in the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 and the Work in Fishing Convention 2007, the ILO highlights, include the right to repatriation and to access medical care ashore. They are calling for member states to ensure that seafarers who require immediate medical care are given access to medical facilities ashore, emergency medical treatment regardless of nationality and, where necessary, emergency repatriation.
Citing the “immense risk that seafarer fatigue represents for the physical and mental health of individual seafarers and the safety of navigation, security and the protection of the marine environment,” the ILO is seeking to again highlight the urgency of the need to address the hardships seafarers have been dealing with for most of 2020 and which are likely to continue into the new year.
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