International Labor Crisis at Sea


An estimated 400,000 seafarers are still at sea despite their seafaring contracts having elapsed since March of 2020, and they struggle to access airports to get back to their families and switch places with other seafarers. Because of shore leave restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Seafarers Mission says crews feel "imprisoned." They do not have COVID-19, and are working 6-7 days a week without access to medical (including mental health) care for other issues due to strict border security and quarantine requirements keeping them shipbound.

The onus is on governments and health authorities to make it work in reasonable, managed ways.

Global investment funds are putting pressure on governments and shipping lines to solve this problem in part to comply with their own sustainability guidelines. On December 21 a group of major investors (led by London-based money manager Fidelity International) with US$2 trillion invested in the shipping sector sent an open letter to the UN secretary-general saying the whole situation posed a risk to sustainable supply chains, stating “The environmental consequences of a serious maritime accident involving these cargoes could be catastrophic for our oceans and security.”


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