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Imagine a world if you can

24 Mar 2020

The life of a seafarer: the “invisible” workforce that keeps world trade moving.

Ninety per cent of the world’s goods are transported by sea. On any given day, there are more than 1.6 million seafarers working onboard 70,000 vessels worldwide. These men and women are transporting cargo and goods essential to businesses and people’s everyday lives that will sustain communities through the coronavirus pandemic.

Ships transport goods to the east, to the west, to the north and to the south – everything from food and household goods to raw material like oil, iron and ore, through to industrial goods like hospital equipment and ventilators.

For a few minutes, we want you to consider the life and welfare of the workers, the seafarers onboard these vessels, who are far from home but on the front line of this global emergency.

Imagine staying onboard a ship with limited space for six, eight or 10 months, working 10-12 hours per day, seven days a week. Imagine being away from your family and friends for months at a time, sailing across the seas, connecting global supply chains, out of sight to ensure that people receive their daily essential goods.

Now imagine having to stay onboard for an unspecified amount of time after 10 months’ work, because governments are banning you from transiting through their country to get home or allowing your relief access to join the ship. Or worse, imagine being abandoned in a port with no money and being sent home to your family because your employer is withholding your earnings.”

It’s not easy to imagine, unless you’re a seafarer.

In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, every day the ITF is dealing with cases and situations where seafarers cannot move freely to safely sign on and off from ships due to the increasing number of restrictions being placed by national governments on the movement or people in and out of their countries.

The irony of the situation is that governments that are dependent on the transportation of essential goods by sea that will aid their citizens ability to get through this unprecedented crisis, are some of the same governments that are denying seafarers the right to go home and are restricting crew changeovers.

The ITF are calling on the vital role of seafarers in this extraordinary crisis to be recognised, and that they be treated as ‘key workers’, regardless of their nationality.

The ITF, and our maritime affiliates, urge governments, politicians, port and flag state authorities, employers and consumers in general to remember that our capacity to respond to this pandemic is reliant on the transportation of goods by the world’s seafarers.

These seafarers are humans too, their health and safety are as important as anyone else’s. So please take a moment to acknowledge their sacrifice, and let’s all ensure they are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve so that they can continue to provide their vital services to keep the world moving.

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Isham Singh
1 year 3 months ago

The life in Sea ## so hard ## so Diffficult !! Like now is more dangers ## Cororna ##

Arunn Bhatia
1 year 3 months ago

Who is to blame for long contracts at sea? Seafarer or cost cutting manning agencies?
Why are seafarers contract workers, why not permanent staff?
Why is poor communication for seafarers with their families when high speed internet is available?

1 year 3 months ago

Very nice comment,so true...

Capt Chandra Kant pandey
1 year 3 months ago

Fleet Management is not providing even Mask sanitizer and basic things which are required in this pandemic.Forget about sign off.Most of the ship staff are due for sign off.Nobody cares for seafarers

Rohan mhatre
1 year 3 months ago

Atlist basic pay for due to joiners

Avinash Gupta
1 year 3 months ago

I agree on this as I have been waiting for soo long .

Thomas Sebastian
1 year 3 months ago

We urge the concerned Governments,Employers,the flag states and the people of the globe to do the needful to effect crew change at this crisis.
Motivate and respect seafarers and show to the world that seafarers are important to us

1 year 3 months ago

Seafarers who are due for sign off need to go home yo see their family.They should be repatriated in this crisis of corona virus.ITf is not doing the needfull.No fruitful action is being taken by iTf

Vivek Kumar
1 year 3 months ago

Need support for seafarer from all over world government, crew change is serious matter. please think more and more

1 year 3 months ago

Now they know how it feels to be isolated for a long time. We were already doing this since we began sailing.

1 year 3 months ago

We just disembark from a cruise line company because of the covid19, some crew members only have one month on board , company should pay a minimum basic salary?

Anna Booth
1 year 3 months ago

As a seafarer on a tanker, me and my ship mates feel safe onboard our vessel. My captain can control who comes onboard. Last port call only inbound and outbound pilot came onboard. All cargo operations were done by email or radio or standing apart on the jetty - like STS. Stores and provisions came by barge within face to face contact.
I think our ship is COVID free.
Even though our contract may be extended, have the potential relievers been in isolation or tested prior to joining? They could bring COVID to the safe ship!
Depending where and when I go home and via which long will I have to spend in isolation before I can rejoin my family.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Aminah Andru
1 year 3 months ago

Anna Booth your writing is so meaningful. Your positive thinking and precaustious attitute is very important for other seafarers to adjust their frustrations about longing to go home to their love ones where nowsaday all people on earth are isolating themselves from one another. As bad as no visitors at home even from grandchildren. Can leave home for main reason that is to get food and medications. Government order all close.....shops, schools, entertainments etc...
I am a mother of a seafarer. My only son now stranded in a ship to continue working and dont know for how long more. He like other seafares normally need a brake from sea to adjust his body, mind and soul. Thank Allah he is a strong boy. His two sons and wife at home are peaceful ones. Thanks to the modern technology that we all can comunicate with each other frequently. Hope everyone in the ship and his is well. Changing crew at this crucial covid 19 period I think could be hazardous. To be safe lockdown at home is as safe as the seafarers staying in their ship with love and care to each other at this point of time. My prayers to all of you. My prayer for my son and his family always. Patience and kindness can make you win. InshaAllah. Please take good care of your health and cleanliness. Thank you for your honourable services to the mankind. May Allah bless you all.

Milhar F
1 year 3 months ago

A mother's love for a son shines through your words of wisdom.

The words will bring great comfort to any seafarer who is fortunate to read your words. They are unloved and unrecognized by the industry they serve, but seafarers help to keep the world fed, clothed, sheltered, healthy, .... as they keep the global trade engine turning slowly but surely.

Thank you Aminah.

I was a seafarer for more than 10 years before I came ashore almost 30 years ago! I understand what seafarers are going through right now.

Let them go home
1 year 3 months ago

Let them go home

Dexter Richards
1 year 3 months ago

Good day,

Please keep us all seafarers updated regarding the progress of this letter. Thank you

Darwish Shala
1 year 3 months ago

I was fortunate to be associated with best seafarer ever, good heart great giver, full of love and care, on top of that he is a straight forward honest and smart.... this man is Eric Sweeney , I am sure that every seafarer has more than one great driver in his life.💖💖

1 year 3 months ago

To provide hazard pay to all seafarer whenever calling in a known COVID-19 infected ports just like transiting in a HRA’s.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

John Brennan
1 year 3 months ago

Good luck with the companies agreeing to a pay increase.

Vignes Rao
1 year 3 months ago

We should get a pay raise for the difficulties we are going thru. Nothing to compared to the public heroes on land but we deserve some recognition as well.

1 year 3 months ago

We've got your sympathy - thank you! ... Can we get some decision's.... Recognize the importance ....

1 year 3 months ago

true..and some port treated seafarers like virus .they dont even allow seafares to step down at the ganaway..

1 year 3 months ago

If you are a seafarer who would like to speak to a journalist about your experiences please e-mail me on

Giannis Fytagkoridis
1 year 3 months ago

These seafarers are humans too...i was not treated like a human on 90% of the ports that I have been to and now I cannot go home after 7 months onboard and to make things even worst I don't even know when it will be possible to go home.
1 year 3 months ago

pls to maritimeofficials give them a salary even during the time they finish their contact when they were in their home until they again resumed to their respective works pls be conern about their finsncial condition

Master Oye
1 year 3 months ago

Please tell how we will go home again??? No flights no nothing!!!! Do we have to stay and die on-board??

Ninfa Martinez
1 year 3 months ago

Indeed, world sustenance and commerce are of no doubt provided by seafarers onboard ships plying the seven seas. Without them manning those ships, who would have thought that countries with its people enjoy the basic necessities of life much more the mundane things of experiencing the beauty of nature and other people's culture, to name a few; thru the cruise provided for by other ships?
Kudos to you seafarers! Wherever you are coming from and with what responsibility you perform onboard.
To me, you are no doubt also a frontliner....not in tending the sick from this Covid 19, but in looking after the physical well being of all peoples in the world by virtue of their access to the food, clothing and shelter your ships bring along to all countries near or far.

Wasantha p.
1 year 3 months ago

For new buildings & existing ships must have separate rooms(withe separate air conditioning) to use Pandemic situations....pls consider....

Boakye-Boampong Nana kwabena
1 year 3 months ago

Kudos to our Galant seafarers
I salute you
Keep saving the world

Centre for International Maritime Affairs , Ghana ( CIMAG )
1 year 3 months ago

CIMAG is an international policy think tank for the Maritime industry .
As a matter of urgency , we urge all employers and flag states to do the needful .
We shall take this advocacy up for the good of all of us .
We care for the sea fearers !

1 year 3 months ago

they this is like WWIII, can seafarers avail for warzone pay at least? Keep safe everyone.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Heather Parker
1 year 3 months ago

And the Merchant Mariners are the unsung heroes
Thank you

Margaret Danstead
1 year 3 months ago

They most certainly should be considered as key workers. How would we manage without them?

Commandant Sajid CEng, ITF Fellow, Bangladesh Marine Academy
1 year 3 months ago

A timely and intelligent initiative to uphold the interest of world's SEAFARERS!

Bernardo Rimando Jr.
1 year 3 months ago

Gd pm kmsta kyo dyan,keep Good health,Safety,Security,Invironment,etc

Adrian Lunn
1 year 3 months ago

A very powerful message. Let’s celebrate our forgotten Hero’s who quietly go about their work providing us with essentials.

1 year 3 months ago

We all appreciate you onboard God Almighty protect you all cover you all with his wings no evil come near any of you keep you till you come back to be with your families.God bless you all

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Martin jeckonia
1 year 3 months ago

Life on board vessel is not easy.crews on board vessel need to be given highly appreciation to their jobs which they do in sea.Best regards to all seaferers.

Thomas Sebastian
1 year 2 months ago

Seafarers the front line workers who keep our lives moving shall get the same importance as their work.The world governments shall ensure their rights ,dignity and safety. Crew change after the contract period is their right and if denied it is a human rights violation.

NuR Ali captain.bangladesh
1 year 2 months ago