“The Committee notes with deep concern the challenges and the impact that restrictions and other measures adopted by governments around the world to contain the spread of the COVID19 pandemic has had on the protection of seafarers’ rights as laid out in the Convention.

The Committee takes note of the observations of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), received by the Office on 1 October 2020 and 26 October 2020, respectively, indicating that all ratifying States have failed to comply with major provisions of the Convention during the COVID-19 pandemic, notably regarding cooperation among Members, access to medical care and repatriation of seafarers. They note that, in addition to the humanitarian concerns linked to the violations of seafarers’ rights, there is now a risk that fatigue and other health issues could lead to serious maritime accidents. The Committee further notes the replies to these observations received from the Governments of Barbados, Cyprus, France, Honduras, Hungary, India, Ireland, Republic of Korea, Lithuania, Myanmar, Palau, Poland, Senegal, Singapore and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which acknowledge the existence of numerous challenges and highlight the different measures taken to ensure, as far as possible, the protection of seafarers’ rights. Several other Governments have provided information to the Office concerning the measures adopted in relation to the implementation of the Convention during the pandemic (Australia, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Panama, Slovenia and Spain). The Office has also received information about hundreds of individual seafarers’ complaints which have been sent directly by the seafarers concerned or transmitted by the Seafarer Crisis Action Team set up by the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

In particular, the Committee notes that according to the information provided by the ITF and the ICS, hundreds of thousands of seafarers (approximately 400,000 for the ITF) are currently stranded on board and a similar number is waiting at home unable to replace them and earn their living. This situation has unfolded into a humanitarian crisis. This is so, in spite of an unprecedented level of social dialogue among the key actors of the maritime sector at the international level and the high level of cooperation among them, numerous governments and United Nations agencies, under the leadership of the ILO and IMO.”