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ITF affiliates in US, Ukraine up pressure on national governments over crew change crisis

30 May 2020

The trade union movement is increasing its pressure on governments to address the escalating crew change crisis affecting an estimated 200,000 seafarers is stepping up, this week American and Ukrainian unions joined their Australian sisters and brothers in calling for change.

The presidents of six US maritime unions have contacted the US Secretary of State and the US Secretary of Defense with an urgent call to facilitate overseas relief for American mariners. Signing the letter were SIU President Michael Sacco; AMO President Paul Doell; MEBA President Marshall Ainley; MM&P President Don Marcus; SUP President Dave Connolly; and MFOW President Anthony Poplawski.

The union leaders say US mariners are “trapped aboard cargo ships, unable to leave or return home due to extreme Covid-19 lockdown measures.” They warn that the “humanitarian crisis, if not resolved as soon as possible, may threaten the essential supply chain for some 200,000 active U.S. military personnel now serving overseas”.

“It is inconceivable that the United States – the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth, with military bases, planes and facilities all over the globe – cannot relieve its own mariners who are stranded at sea. To date, however, our efforts to address this problem with members of your respective departments have yielded no results. That’s why we are bringing this issue to your attention.”

The six US unions were joined Thursday by a letter sent from Mykhailo Kirieiev, Chairman of the Marine Transport Workers’ Trade Union of Ukraine (MTWTU) to his Prime Minister and President. The MTWTU is one of the largest seafarers’ unions in the world and is a member union of the ITF.

Alongside ITF General Secretary Steve Cotton, the MTWTU urged Ukraine’s leaders to “take all possible measures to protect the rights and legitimate interests of Ukrainian seafarers, to ensure the proper implementation of the recommendations, provided by international organizations, aimed to facilitate the movement of seafarers and marine personnel”.

Seafarers must be able to carry out regular crew changes, meaning Ukraine must introduce “exceptional regulations” that would allow the world’s seafarers to move across Ukraine’s borders and use air and other travel to get home.

This follows calls from ITF president Paddy Crumlin, on behalf of the ITF and the Maritime Union of Australia, to the Australian Prime Minister to provide immediate and holistic national leadership to avert this emerging humanitarian crisis.

The American and Ukrainian calls add pressure to the global campaign to have governments treat seafarers, dockers and fishers as ‘key workers’ during the pandemic, and afford them the decency and respect befitting these workers’ sacrifice and contribution through a turbulent time.

Under maritime conventions, if seafarers have been on board for too many months, the ship can be stopped by port state control authorities.

The risk of serious consequences of not acting are growing for governments as an increasing number of trapped seafarers are struggling with deteriorating mental health and rising fatigue while still having to safely operate the vessels that global trade and billions of people, and voters, rely on.

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A disturbed seafarers
2 years 3 months ago

US is more keen to get their seafarers from other countries, on the contrary they are not allowing any crew change in US ports. CBP is imposing strict restrictions with no crew change at all for foreign nationalities with valid US Visa... I believe US should start allow the crew changes and then they can expect other countries to follow them..

financial very weak seafarers
2 years 3 months ago

I am from India. I joined new company and waiting to join ship since long time at home. Now I feel like I am waiting at home that when grocery of my home will finish. I have kid.

tired and stress seafarer
2 years 3 months ago

please include also here in kuwait. we cannot have crew change because they dont release visa.. our contract is finished on March 22 and we are still here.. please help us .. we want to go home . we want to see our family .. please.

Tired seaferer Indian
2 years 3 months ago

My contract finished feb still am in onboard its my 11 month.. we are not stayed onboard from 1or 2 months why govt's comparing with all peoples this is our work after clear this covid all peoples will stay in home but seaferers again onboard plz dont play with our feelings we are not animals we are hard workers we will tired within 6 or 7months we can't stop work also we cant work.. Am not single in my vessel total 14 indian sailors waiting for aign off almost 11,9 months finised..

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Sailor Jack
2 years 3 months ago

Нашли к кому обратится...они убивают всю
морскую индустрию в Украине, люди ошеломлены или бегут. Плюют на всех,начиная со своих граждан и заканчивая ИМО.

Hector Herrera
2 years 3 months ago

Good day, i am C/O that suppouse to join the last May 15th but i'm stuck in Colombia since lockdown starts 3 month ago. Fligth restriction in Colombia extend apparently of beggining of september but not sure. This is not my country and i need to relief my polish coworker. I need assitance in this matter.

2 years 3 months ago

Are you kidding? When will be real action? Why just some useless letters? It looks like seafarers have to take control for situation alone and start strikes onboard. Contracts are over but even not force owner to pay double or triple,you letters are nothing for governments and owners. There are crews more than 11 month onboard and even more than 12...the company just forces to sign extension and does not reply for mails about crew change. Where is respect to our work? Where are promised actions? Where is your protection? Stop all vessels!no trades!let crew rests like it must be when contracts are over!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Action Man
2 years 3 months ago

We need to organise and stop the ships without hoping that ITF, IMO or whatever will help us.... Let's joing one Whatsapp or Telegram group. I you need something to be done do it yourself ! #COVID19 STOP SHIPS 4 CREW CHANGE.

Maureen Chota Zunda, tata zambia international.
2 years 3 months ago

Good day collegues,
It's a pit the is no crew change with this covid

Sailor Jack
2 years 3 months ago

Оооо, я кажется понял. В Украине специально уже ввели безумные цены на документы,чтобы моряков в Украине не осталось. Таким образом вопрос и о сменах в ближайшем будущем будет решен раз и навсегда) работает оказанное давление оказывается!!! Все молодцы!!!

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2 years 3 months ago

Shame on the entire world countries that are prohibiting crew to fly out and return home to their families...especially their own citizens.

All of the MLC and ITF rules are non existing and this is the proof that the efficiency of those is equal to ZERO! And always was.

Imagine your kids are stuck somewhere like this...and they cant return home for political decisions of some arrogant individual...
World can be ashamed, and the IMO too... You should all be ashamed, but you don't care, you just pretend.

We will never forgive you this; one day when you come onboard inspecting and telling us about crew rights.
There are no even basic human rights here.

What are you going to do to change government minds??
"Nothing can be done at this moment".
We heard this already...

Ali baba
2 years 3 months ago

NATO: No Action Talk Only!!!

2 years 3 months ago

Please have look on situation in China.
Non Chinese seafarers cannot sing off.

2 years 3 months ago

Looks like the seafarers have to rise the sound of STRIKE,STRIKE STRIKE

2 years 3 months ago

Whatever you saying about rights protection and increasing pressure, it's already 3 months since Covid restrictions began nothing changes... Nobody onboard of our container ship believes in this actions. We're stuck onboard, and owner even refused to supply foods in same quantity as before. This Covid is very good chance for all companies to save their money and hide from responsibility!!! Disasters will come soon, tension increasing...