Today sees the launch of a charity crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for developing world seafarers and their families that have been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
While much of the shipping industry take their responsibilities to their seafarers very seriously, there is still a real challenge facing many seafarers from the poorer regions of the world. Many are in lockdown with casual contracts and unable to work; others are facing difficulties due to lockdowns when they leave ships and are unable to return to their families with costs and little income coming in; and there are even some reports of seafarers being shunned on their return to their homes for fears of the virus. There is also the issue of their families not having income in order to get by and the situation is likely to get far worse before it gets better.
In a public statement last month, International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General Kitack Lim stated: '…We must also remember the hundreds of thousands of seafarers on ships. They are, unwittingly, on the front line of this global calamity. Their professionalism ensures that the goods we all need are delivered – safely and with minimal impact on our precious environment. These are people, usually far from home and family. Their own health and welfare is as important as that of anyone else.'
This campaign is an opportunity for the general public that are depending on this vital industry to show their support for seafarers by helping to assist the most vulnerable and for those in shipping and logistics industries to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those most severely affected by these current extraordinary circumstances. All funds raised will go to the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), a UK-registered charity, and dispersed through ISWAN's Seafarers Emergency Fund (SEF). ISWAN's membership includes seafarer associations throughout the developing world alongside shipping companies and shipping organisations. The campaign can be viewed at: crowdfunder.co.uk/emergency-support-for-developing-world-seafarers.
'We warmly welcome this initiative as we are receiving more and more calls from seafarers to our helpline SeafarerHelp. Many are from Filipino and Indian seafarers whose lives are being adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds raised will be used to assist seafarers and their families who are facing hardship because of the pandemic,' says Roger Harris, Executive Director of the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network.
ISWAN will ringfence the donations from this campaign ensuring that 100% of all funds raised will be made available to developing world recipients and all administration costs will be covered by the charity. ISWAN's Seafarers Emergency Fund (SEF) is available to provide immediate, essential aid to seafarers and families of seafarers, who are directly involved in sudden or unforeseen crises to cover expenses such as psychological counselling, medical bills, repatriation and other unexpected costs.
The campaign is supported by international maritime organisations including: ISWAN, World Ocean Council, the North American Marine Environment Protection Association, the Nautical Institute and the International Windship Association.
Getting emergency help to this group of especially vulnerable seafarers and their families will become even more imperative as the impact of the crisis is felt by small ship operators in those regions with limited resources to support workers, and as the pandemic expands in the developing world where financial and health resources are scarce.