- By Oviya Vaiz June 18, 2020
Pope Francis released a video on Wednesday and expressed his support to all the seafarers stuck in the sea amidst the pandemic.
More than 2,00,000 workers have been constantly extending their contracts and staying on board since the COVID-19 lockdown. It has also been extremely difficult to replace the current working crew due to strict travel restrictions.
According to IMO, most workers have extended their contract beyond 1 year which is against the rules. Travel restrictions of many countries have been one of the greatest obstacles for crew replacement. Few nations like Canada, Singapore, etc have eased restrictions on travel whereas most countries haven’t.
"These are difficult times for the world, as we have had to deal with the suffering caused by the Corona virus. Your work as maritime personnel and fishermen has thus become even more important since it is providing our greater human family with food and other primary needs," said Pope Francis. "You have had to make, and are continuing to make, many sacrifices: long periods spent aboard ships without being able to disembark, separation from families, friends and native countries, fear of infection. All these things are a heavy burden to bear, now more than ever, know that you are not alone and that you are not forgotten."
Many organizations like the IMO, International Chamber of Shipping, etc have been working to achieve relief for the distressed seafarers on various vessels by urging governments to consider seafarers as critical workers and lower their travel restrictions. The ITF has also expressed support by encouraging workers to excise their right to stop work once their contracts expire and transit back to their home countries.