Trapped at Sea by Covid-19

cargo ship

Border restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 have trapped many of the worlds 1.6 million seafarers at sea for many months. In Australia it is against the law for seafarers to take even a five-minute break on the wharf. Sister of St Joseph, Sr Mary Leahy, works as a chaplain to seafarers from a disused freight container at Port Botany. Sr Mary says many of the seafarers do not know what is happening with international borders and wonder when will they will be able to go home.

“It is estimated that around 100,000 seafarers finish their contracts and fly home every month in normal times but that is not currently happening, and they are stuck on the ships for who knows how long. They are always in danger, in isolation and generally forgotten by society yet carry 98% of world trade.”

Sr Mary sees the situation that traps seafarers at sea akin to slavery. Her comments are supported by Dean Summers, the national coordinator for the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) in Australia who commented:

“If somebody has finished their contract and they want to go home and you force them to go back to sea, that’s slavery. It’s forced labour”.

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