Seafarers' group urges help for 'invisible essential workers'

The following is text of a news release from the Seafarers International House:

(NEW YORK) — Because of COVID-19 safety restrictions, the New York Athletic Club is not able to host the 2020 Setting the Course Banquet planned for July 30. Given the current uncertainties, we have decided to postpone the event to 2021, when we will safely honor our 2020 Outstanding Friends of Seafarers.

In the meantime, seafarers, who should be called "invisible essential workers," need our help more than ever. Maritime transport depends on the 2 million seafarers who operate the world’s merchant ships, which carry about 90 percent of global trade by volume, including most of the world’s food, energy, and medical supplies.

Due to COVID-related travel restrictions, hundreds of thousands of seafarers have been stuck at sea. Unable to disembark, the maximum sea time stipulated in international conventions, is being ignored, with some seafarers marooned at sea for 15 months.

Because of the lack of crew rotation, many seafarers are exhausted and worried about their loved ones who they can’t contact while at sea. When in port, customs agents don’t allow seafarers to leave their ships, which for many have become "floating prisons."

Other seafarers are literally stranded in New York City with no permanent home to go to and no assignment because of the disruptions. The costs of hotels will bankrupt many seafarers who are forced to wait ashore for their next shipping job. 

Seafarers International House addresses the needs of both sets of seafarers, the ones marooned at sea and the ones stranded. Our port chaplains are able to visit ships in ports along the Eastern Seaboard and bring them magazines, books, and internet connectivity that breaks the painful separation from their families. Port chaplains also bring provisions that the seafarers ask them to pick up.

Seafarers stranded in Manhattan have a subsidized place to stay at the Seafarers International House ”relocated” — now at a mid-town hotel. Our staff assists them if they need counsel or social work assistance.

In addition, a hot-line “chat with a chaplain” has also been established for seafarers regardless of where they are in the world.

Your support will provide great relief to the invisible essential workers that travel the world seas many months on end, to provide us the essential goods we often take for granted.

To support seafarers with a donation, click here.

By Professional Mariner Staff