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[Shopping on Black Friday? Remember the stranded seafarers who make it possible]

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    Moderators, Recreation & Hobbies Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 15,183 mod Tabnabs

    Shopping on Black Friday? Remember the stranded seafarers who make it possible

    This weekend is one of the planet’s busiest shopping sprees, with an estimated £66bn to be spent in the UK alone over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, much of it online. Yet as shoppers click and wait to collect, there is a crisis at sea among the people whose work brings us these goods.

    It is no exaggeration to say that without shipping the global marketplace would collapse. It is responsible for the movement of 90% of all global trade. Even in normal circumstances, more than a million seafarers labour daily on the vessels that make up the world cargo fleet, their work barely noticed by consumers. As Covid-19 has ravaged the world, they have helped keep the global economy functioning, unseen.

    As Guardian Seascape has repeatedly reported, however, nearly 400,000 of these seafarers are trapped by the crew change crisis. Most have not been designated key workers during the pandemic, and have remained effectively imprisoned on board their vessels – unable to change crews at ports, and therefore unable to return to their homes and loved ones.

    The silence on the plight of these stranded seafarers is widespread: from the governments that have decided shipping crew are not essential workers, to the major retailers that profit from tremendous sales. This failure takes on renewed importance now, as new vaccines against Covid-19 are developed and the conversation turns to who should be inoculated first. The International Maritime Organisation, the UN body for shipping and seafarers, has failed to get countries to uphold standards of care and repatriation for seafarers. They are, in effect, lost at sea.

    Many have been so for more than a year, with their physical and mental wellbeing deteriorating rapidly as a result. They work in some of the world’s toughest conditions to satisfy global retail demand, and their struggle has been recognised by Pope Francis and António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations. As yet, however, we have heard little from those in the retail sector who actually have the power to make a difference.

    The majority of shipping seafarers are from the Philippines, China and India, and it is perhaps the case that some in the west see their plight as a problem for the other side of the world. But shipping is a truly global enterprise, and the potential ramifications of continued indifference are just as universal. Not only does the humanitarian crisis at sea worsen every day, but the failing health of our seafarers affects productivity, which in turn hurts the seamless transportation of goods around the world.

    As things stand, a few major retailers are poised to profit immensely from the work of seafearers in the rush for goods on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The International Chamber of Shipping has written an open letter to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, asking him to use his influence to exert pressure on governments to recognise seafarers as key workers, so that they can change crews, go home and be reunited with their families.

    The plight of seafarers is global, and requires a global response. Governments must give seafarers the same rights as other essential workers, and corporate responsibility must extend to seafarers as it does to other employees. Retail profiteering at the hands of trapped men and women must end. Until then, before you click “add to cart,” spare a thought for the seafarers whose work will help deliver the contents of that cart to the comfort of your home, even while they can’t get home themselves.

    • Nusrat Ghani is MP for Wealden and a former maritime minister. Guy Platten is secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping


  • Years ago I remember hearing about a charity Stella Maris who collect gear and boots etc to donate to sailors who come in to Dublin Port, they're out on the high seas in totally inadequate gear, and paid buttons.

    I have passed on my old sailing gear and boots to them since, and hope that they kept some sailor a bit protected from the conditions.

    A small gesture in the overall scheme of things (esp reading the above article) but hopefully makes a small difference.

  • aka 'The Mish' can be found in many port around the world and always seen as a safe place to make a call home, often with a bar, and located close to the ship. Religious aspect for those who wanted that side too (many Filipinos seemed to appreciate it).

  • Have to say I found the Mission a literal lifesaver when I was at sea. In Europoort they had their own bus that would collect crew from ships on isolated jetties, bring them to the mission where they could enjoy a pint, a coffee, or a prayer, and usually in your own language, and either drive them back, or arrange taxi's.
    They used to have a place in Cork also, where the Asgard Support group used to meet each month, on South Terrace. Gone now though, along with Asgard.
    Very useful too if you are joining or leaving a ship and it has been delayed, or arrived too early for transport etc. At least you had somewhere safe to wait.

  • Watched something a while ago on one of the ports in the Uk and they had a port chaplin from one of the local churches who would go on the ships to see the crews and try and help out with anything they needed. They were recording him on a ship full of Flipinos who hadnt been home in months or seen their families and he was giving them some sort of a wifi service to skype home and the lads on the crew were chuffed but he was saying one of the weirdest requests he had for something was a crew on Indians who had been at sea for so long they just wanted to stand on grass so he got them bused down to a nearby park. Its probably alright for the officers and captain who know when how long their stint aboard is going to be but the lads at the bottom are stuck

  • I crewed with guys from Cabo Verde. To them Rotterdam was home, so many of their countrymen having second homes there. The company only paid their travel to Rotterdam too, getting back to Cabo Verde after that was their own problem.

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