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The ITF demands immediate action to ensure the safety of seafarers in the Red Sea

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The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and seafarers’ unions globally stand united in grief and outrage following attacks on shipping in the Red Sea that have killed and injured seafarers. We demand immediate action to ensure the safety of seafarers in the Red Sea, action which, to date, has been lacking and which could have prevented the unnecessary deaths of seafarers.

This year, Houthi rebels have launched over 60 attacks on merchant ships in the Red Sea, sinking two, seizing another, and attacking dozens more.

On 12 June, Houthis attacked the MV Tutor, a Liberia-flagged carrier, with an unmanned surface vehicle and an anti-ship missile in the southern Red Sea. This unprovoked attack tragically killed one crew member. The remaining crew had to abandon the ship, which sank about a week later. 

In March, the maritime community mourned the loss of three seafarers aboard the MV True Confidence, also attacked by Houthis. 

We also continue to advocate for the safe return of crew members from the Galaxy Leader, attacked by Houthis in November 2023, and from the MSC Aries, seized by Iran in April 2024, who remain unjustly held captive. Additionally, we condemn the recent Houthi attacks on the cargo ship MV Verbena, which resulted in a seafarer being severely injured by anti-ship cruise missiles, and on the Transworld Navigator.

While we appreciate expressions of solidarity and condemnation, words are not enough. The ITF demands urgent, concrete action to guarantee the safety and security of seafarers. 

Governments must step up and coordinate their efforts to protect seafarers sailing in or through the area. Shipping companies must demonstrate their commitment to their seafarers by diverting their ships. Flag states, which are responsible for assuring a safe working environment for seafarers on their vessels, must instruct companies to divert their ships. Flag of Convenience states must not rely solely on United States, United Kingdom, or European navies for protection. 

June 25 marks the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) ‘Day of the Seafarer’, with this year’s theme being “Navigating the Future – Safety First”. Yet, it is clear that right now many seafarers are undertaking their critical jobs in the face of grave danger.

Seafarers are not commodities but the backbone of the global supply chain. Their lives should not be risked for profit, nor should they have to perform their duties under the constant threat of violence or harm.

We urge the international community to reflect on the invaluable contributions of seafarers to the global economy and to take action now to ensure justice, safety and security for those risking their lives at sea.

ON THE GROUND

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Pavel Krenk

It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Pavel Krenk, a revered leader in the global trade union community and long-serving chairman of the Czech Trade Union of Seafarers, who left us on 24