Repatriated after more than 100 days offshore
On 10 May 2020, IMO was contacted by a fatigued seafarer on an offshore support vessel. He and many of his colleagues had spent 100 days offshore – some had already counted 140 days – with no break and no prospect of crew changes. The seafarer was worried because his employer was planning to extend crew contracts by another two months.
"We are all feeling the strains of the long period offshore especially having no end date in sight. To many of us that is not good and certainly puts safety on the line", the seafarer wrote in an email to IMO's Seafarer Crisis Action Team (SCAT).
The SCAT brought the message to the attention of the relevant NGOs in consultative status with IMO and liaised with the maritime authorities of the flag and port States concerned.
Following this swift intervention from IMO, the port State confirmed it would take the necessary measures to facilitate crew change while the ship was in its port or terminal, and the seafarer was able to go home and be reunited with his family.
Protecting seafarers' mental health
A seafarer onboard a container ship sent a call for help to IMO on 12 April 2020. His contract, which was due to finish at the end of March, had been extended for another month. The seafarer claimed that his company was failing to take action to change crew, even though government assistance made that option possible.
While the seafarer recognised that he and his colleagues were not in a critical situation physically, he described serious impacts on their mental health. "We have meals, everything is okay, but the main thing is our psychological health", the seafarer told IMO's Seafarer Crisis Action Team (SCAT) in his first email.
The SCAT referred the seafarer to the relevant national maritime administration and trade unions, while also bringing the matter to the attention of the flag and port States concerned. This diplomatic intervention helped resolve the case, and the flag State confirmed it would assist the seafarer with his contract and repatriation.
The seafarer and another crew member were able to return home safely in May. In an email, the seafarer warmly thanked a SCAT team member for his help and support, writing: "you are really a man with a big heart".
A seafarer repatriated to assist her vulnerable relatives
A British seafarer was desperate to be reunited with her family after months working on a passenger ship in the Pacific. Her vulnerable relatives back home needed her support in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and she was determined to be by their side.
But her plan to fly home mid-March was derailed. Immigration authorities of the port State initially denied permission to travel, because the rules had been changed with almost no notice. The seafarer was stuck on the ship at anchor with no means of returning home.
On 31 March, she emailed a plea for help to IMO. “As I am sure is the case for so many other seafarers right now, I am so desperate to get home. My parents and grandmother are vulnerable and I cannot think about anything else”, she said. The seafarer added that her mental health was seriously affected, and she feared the situation would also impact her ability to perform her duties as a bridge officer.
IMO immediately contacted the port State and seafarer State and informed the relevant NGOs. Those efforts helped resolve the case. Thanks to the efficient cooperation between the local seafarer’s union and the port State, the seafarer was allowed to fly home on 12 April.
In a message sent to IMO the next day, she thanked the Organization and the port State for ensuring she could be reunited with her family. “I am relieved and overjoyed to be back! Thank you so much for all your help and support. I am also very grateful to [the port State] for allowing me to travel, the whole process was very well managed and controlled”, she said.