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Enough is enough: World’s seafarers will now exercise right to leave ships amid Covid-19 failures

15 Jun 2020
Press Release

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and its affiliated seafarers’ unions will now assist hundreds of thousands of seafarers to exercise their right to stop working, leave ships, and return home.

The new approach, which could be highly disruptive to global trade, comes after insufficient action by governments to designate seafarers as ‘key workers’, exempt them from Covid-19 travel restrictions and facilitate repatriation of around 200,000 seafarers who have been caught up in the crew change crisis, said ITF Seafarers’ Section Chair Dave Heindel.

“We are sending a very strong message to seafarers: you have selflessly extended and extended your contracts to do your part to keep critical supplies flowing around the world during this pandemic,”

“Some seafarers have been onboard for more than a year, and over the course of this pandemic many have been prevented by governments from coming ashore even for a walk and alarmingly refused emergency medical care. Frankly, we have seafarers killing themselves at the prospect of this misery continuing without end. They call them ‘floating prisons’. This situation is intolerable to the ITF family,” said Heindel

ITF President and Dockers’ Section chair Paddy Crumlin reiterated the repeated warnings given to governments from unions and industry of this unfolding humanitarian crisis: “We have urged them on the consequences of tired, fatigued, depressed crew – to trade, to the environment. We have worked with industry and the international community to offer solutions.”

“But enough is enough. We have to draw a line in the sand and today is the day that we make it crystal clear to governments, that from June 16, seafarers are going to start enforcing their right to stop working and to return home. No more contract extensions.” said Crumlin.

ITF General Secretary Steve Cotton said all that governments need to do is make practical exceptions to coronavirus restrictions, and allow these key workers to transit through their territories and return to their families. A few small changes by national governments would allow seafarers to get home, and be relieved by a fresh crew, he said.

“If a seafarers wants off a ship, then the ITF, our affiliated unions and the ITF inspectorate will do everything we can to assist them. We fully expect port state authorities in all countries where ships dock to honour their obligations under the Maritime Labour Convention to get these seafarers safely home. That is their legal obligation,”

“If getting seafarers off these ships causes chaos in supply chains, if ports back up from Singapore to San Francisco, and if this causes ship insurance providers to pull their coverage and global trade to grind to a halt; then that is on the heads of politicians, not the world’s seafarers,”

“Seafarers have done our part in this pandemic, and plenty more. Enough is enough,” said Steve Cotton.


Background on the crew change crisis

The ITF, our affiliates, and our social partners have been clear in our warnings about the consequences of governments and their officials ignoring the escalating crew change crisis: 

19 March: ITF agreed to crew contract extensions due to unprecedented pandemic, where crew consent

7 April: ITF and employers told G20 leaders to facilitate essential movement of seafarers

9 April: Maritime unions and employers called on governments to identify seafarers as key workers and facilitate crew changes

27 April: ITF, employers called out governments for denying medical assistance ashore for seafarers

6 May: Industry-union 12-step solution for crew change is adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which starts advocating for the protocols to governments and internationally

14 May: The ITF and Joint Negotiating Group (JNG) representing employers, including the International Maritime Employers Council, release a joint statement calling for government action and set a final 30 day implementation deadline to June 15

22 May: The UN Secretary General was urged by global union and shipping leaders to governments to act urgently

28 May: ILO, IMO and ICAO urge governments to act on crew change, ‘key worker’ status

12 June: UN backs ITF, international calls for key workers status over crew change crisis


Resources for seafarers:

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and our affiliated seafarers’ unions will now assist hundreds of thousands of seafarers to exercise their right to stop working, leave ships, and return home.

Here are the resources and supports we have made available to them:

Media Contact: +44 20 7940 9282 |

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Capt. Andriy
1 year 5 months ago

Only the thing is that CoEs are signed and have to wait one or two months till it over again.

Deck officer
1 year 5 months ago

Don t sign extensions and call the itf inspectors ! If you are afraid and sign than don t complain and wait until .... you get the point ! Thank you ITF for this very first firm step, now we the seafarers have to fight for our rights to and refuse any extensions and call authorities so they press the companies( most of which are hiding behind COVID 19 and don t even try to make crew changes even in the countriea where is allowed , because is expensive due to restrictions)

Salim Shaikh
1 year 5 months ago

It's easier said than done ,ITF is not going to come knocking on every person's door who is kicked out of his company and give him a salary when he is unemployed

1 year 5 months ago

Exactly! There is no employment protection at all.

Angel Tristan
11 months 4 weeks ago

sliding screen doors

Capt. Bikram
1 year 5 months ago

Kudos to you! Our faith has been restored and we feel that we are not alone. Thank you!

Officer on Singapore flag PSV
1 year 5 months ago

Only problem is that if we decide to exercise our rights and demand shore leave from the company or refuse to extend our tours again; we will be fired or made redundant. Not exactly a good solution.

1 year 5 months ago

You must choose...freedom or many. If you need many pls stay on board and don't cray...I you won t back to home -strike....simple

Zaw Min Tun
1 year 5 months ago

Thank you

Capt. Samsul Mannan. MSC,MBA,AFNI.
1 year 5 months ago

I would like to appreciate ITF for taking such a BOLD Step. As a marine Harbour pilot, I have to Maneuver ship every single day in different ships. Thus I have practical experience of watching the cry of the seafarer. Most of the crew 's onboard ship are overstaying. Yesterday I was piloting a ship whose Master is already 9 months onboard and don't know when to sign off. Our policymaker should take more steps to repatriate these crews.

Salim Shaikh
1 year 5 months ago

Honestly it's easy to say this when you are making such comments sitting behind a desk .If a person's does this his company will never employ him ,worse he is out of a job . Are you going to give him a job ? Will you pay and feed his family when he is desperately looking for a job?

1 year 5 months ago

I have seen so many people who should go home after finish their contract. But the office always says no flight available, they always book flight 2-3days before vessel’s arrival, but in reality it will not be possible to get ticket just 2-3days before arriving. The flight is also a big concern.

1 year 5 months ago

Go to hell ITF!!! You are betrayed us!!!

i have a question
1 year 5 months ago

very impressive statement from ITF, but i am curious - will ITF charter airplanes to arrange crew changes?

1 year 4 months ago

right! easy for itf to say 'enough is enough'. but do you have any idea how many countries are only allowing crew changes? how many ports have implemented their restrictions and requirements if/when we do crew changes? how many commercial flights have suspended? and how limited charter flights are? we do not want to keep our crew on board for any longer than our committed contract length. since you sound like you know how to do it, please tell us how????

1 year 5 months ago

Good day! A representative of the families of seafarers who have become unwitting hostages of the situation addresses you as an organization with the main goals, namely:
−promoting greater respect for trade Union rights and human rights around the world;

−working for a world based on social justice and economic progress;

−helping its member unions protect the interests of their members;

- providing General assistance to employees of the transport sector, with a request to take effective measures to the company SCF management services, because this company violates the rights of seafarers, does not organize crew changes. Seafarers are not able to write off, return home to their families, and are forced to work because their contracts have been extended for a long time. The mental state of the sailors is exhausted, morale tends to zero, and since February they have not been able to set foot on the ground and receive qualified medical care. The media reports that the governments of countries are easing restrictions imposed due to the pandemic, but in the case of SCF management services, employees are the last to be thought about, because for this company, the priority is to get excess profits. a Convincing request to assist and influence the company's policy in terms of human rights and freedoms, as well as a request to assist in compensation for working out over the norm of the contract , because the company does not compensate in any way.

A seafarer
1 year 5 months ago

As a seafarer, we do appreciate ITF's care in this pandemic. But I do doubt it's a good way to call strike. As a responsible organization, they should assess the risk to society before the making such decision:
1. if all overdue seafarer refuse to work, ships will stop trade. Some vessel may drifting at high sea, channel, terminal and port anchorage. Will this create disaster to the whole world?
2. COVID-19 is spreading in the whole world. most of nation is still lockdown. Airline stopped. Even though government allow crew disembark from ship and majority crew disembarked from ship, how long do they need to wait for the flight? During their waiting period for the flight, who is to protect them from the virus? In case seafarers been infected, and this spread to seafaerers family, who is the one to pay for his family? ITF or SEafarer himself? This is irresponsible action.
3. could you image a VLCC carrying 2millions barrel oil onboard and the master/chief engineer/chief officer were on strike? Who will be blamed for the incident, ship owner, government or ITF?

At this critical time, the best way is cooperation. If ITF do care of the seafares, it's time to work with each government, Union nation, shipowners etc to set a proper procedure and materialize the policies. There were two serious issues to owner:
1. flight availability --- individual ship owner may not be afford to charter a flight for a few crew change. But if ITF can organize flight in main sea port, it will encourage ship owner to arrange crew change at major port. (it's a money matters. ITF has union fee to settle).
2. materialize policy for crew change --- only major port government involved as most crew change in major port only. Has ITF has any dialogue with them? US as a world most powerful country, stopped crew replacement for a few month. Has ITF talked to MR Trump and force him to accept seafarers transportation and issue Visa for India, Philipinos, Chinese and Russian?

1 year 5 months ago

True story - only military USCG agreed to help seafarer from our ship. All authorities in region refused even though life could have been endangered. Governments are good for nothing. Repeat : nothing.

1 year 3 months ago

Thank you ITF for your great help !!!
We have worked on board for more than 13 months.We’ll flight back to our homelands tomorrow.It is possible to go home.

1 year ago

need help for crew change we are already 14months her onboard our ship is mv sun mermaid..i think it is enough because 7 times cancelation for crew change its to much and then our company is always promising to do her best but until now is no actions please we are 16 crew her was over contract want to go home our location now is going to mizushima from kashima japan

1 year ago

need help for crew change we are already 14months her onboard our ship is mv sun mermaid..i think it is enough because 7 times cancelation for crew change its to much and then our company is always promising to do her best but until now is no actions please we are 16 crew her was over contract want to go home our location now is going to mizushima from kashima japan

Oluwa grandson
3 weeks 3 days ago

Hey! Lovely teach me however indeed I understand