Shipping unites to create covid emergency relief fund for seafarers

Leading seafarer welfare charities and shipping industry players have launched an emergency relief fund in order to support seafarers and their families devastated by Covid-19 in India and other countries.

Hundreds of thousands of seafarers have been marooned on vessels for months beyond agreed contracts. Despite suggestions that the crew change crisis was near its end, the escalation of covid cases in India to more than 400,000 per day has prompted some major ports to prohibit ship crew changes for seafarers with recent travel history to India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

In response, the Seafarers International Relief Fund (SIRF) has set a target of US $1m. It has been established by bringing together leading international seafarer welfare organisations, The Seafarers’ Charity (formerly Seafarers UK) supported by The Mission to Seafarers, ISWAN, Sailors’ Society and other charities – in a united appeal to the shipping industry – to deliver urgent support to seafarers and their families in India.

“We have all been shocked by the images and stories coming from India, and our hearts go out to the people of India and those from India working around the world who are suffering from the impact of this pandemic. It often takes a crisis to bring people together and this is no different,” says Esben Poulsson, chair of the International Chamber of Shipping.

“The fact that seafarer charities have come together signifies the scale of the challenge before us in the short term, and looking further ahead. I am calling on shipowners and all those engaged in the maritime sector to support this initiative and consider increasing your contribution to seafarer charities at this time. When faced with significant challenges that maritime community always come together – this is what we do.”

A number of major shipping organisations have already pledged their support to the fund, including Anglo-Eastern, Ardmore Shipping, Cargill, Hafnia, IRI (Marshall Islands Flag), MSC, Pacific Basin and V.Group.

“We have all been struck by the latest news from India and we stand with our seafarers as we deal with the scourge of the Covid-19 pandemic. Maersk supports the creation of the Seafarers International Relief Fund, and we will do our utmost to support our Indian seafarers and their families at this difficult time,” says Henriette Hallberg Thygesen, CEO of fleet and strategic brands and executive vice president at A.P. Møller – Mærsk A/S.

The fund will be used to deliver aid through existing welfare programmes run by welfare partners in India, to make sure that support reaches seafarers and their families as quickly as possible, as well as ensuring that support can remain in place over the challenging weeks and months ahead.

Although the immediate focus of the campaign is India, other countries also remain highly vulnerable to the pandemic, including those with large numbers of international seafarers. The goal of the SIRF is to stand ready to support seafarers and their families afflicted by the pandemic in other countries, should the need arise.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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