Our 24-hour helpline SeafarerHelp has handled over 2,000 COVID-19-related cases involving seafarers and their families since the beginning of this year.
One of the platforms that seafarers can use to contact SeafarerHelp is VK, a Russian social media networking site. Three Russian seafarers spoke to one of our SeafarerHelp Officers on VK about what life at sea has been like during the COVID-19 pandemic and how they are coping with the challenges it has presented. The following interviews have been translated from Russian:
COVID-19 had a very strong impact on me and my work, namely the duration of the contract, since the borders are closed due to the virus and we cannot go home.
I have been on the ship since December 7, 2019. The contract was supposed to end in April - May. It's August now and I'm still on the ship. Working more than normal is not physically difficult, but emotionally and mentally difficult. I keep in touch with my family regularly,
How I dealt with the problems? I just kept myself busy.
What am I waiting for when I get home? Meet my girlfriend, sit down with relatives and have a drink!
To other seafarers I would like to say to hold on and do not be discouraged because sooner or later it will improve.
When I joined the ship, my contract was for five months, and it should end in April 2020. Then COVID-19 began and the borders were closed. Since March, I have not been ashore since the shore leave was prohibited, I did not lose my money, I was not discouraged, I did not panic. I was doing my job as usual. Months passed, days and hours. I understood that sooner or later they will relieve us.
The way out of a stressful situation is not to think about the bad, not to panic. Stay positive, sooner or later a miracle will happen! And since the beginning you need to occupy yourself with something. Let the brain think about something else. Watch comedies, cartoons. Read useful information. Chat with colleagues, do some sport after work. Get fishing tackle and go fishing. Chat with family, with friends on social media platforms. Think what you would like to do at home once back.
Make plans! All this distracts us from stress and despair. Alcohol, for me, is not a way to overcome panic and stress on the vessel since a large amount of alcohol only leads to the loss of self-control, and this can lead to aggression and to anger. This can impact the safety and lead to accidents. Safety comes first on the vessel.
Keep your courage, comrade sailors! Mind your health and foremost in your hands. Take care of yourself!
How did the pandemic affect me... The question is very good, I don't know how to answer this question correctly and if there is a correct answer... It touched every seafarer both at home and at sea. Of course, it is very difficult to describe this state: the feeling that you were abandoned, that you are not needed by anyone, torn away from the world, receiving new promises from the company every month, only to cause more disappointment, which later grew into indifference and complete distrust.
I have been on board for more than eight months in an offshore zone; the last time I was on shore leave on December 1, 2019. Initially my contract was supposed to end in early April, but due to the global pandemic it continues... Working becomes more and more difficult, every sailor is faced with lack of sleep, mental and physical fatigue, if you knew when your contract ends, it is always easier to stay strong.
Now you don’t know when it’s all over, every shift is mental struggle. I just say to myself: 'I have to go as far as it takes, and then go even further.' Fortunately, we are constantly in the same waters and it is possible to order from the internet and keep in touch with your family. But with every promise of the company, which later breaks down for some reason, it upsets your family at home and you start to worry more about them: the tears of wives, mothers, it's all very hard, you try to support them by phone, but your words go somewhere in the void.
You need to be stronger and hold on for their sake, although I don't tell my family a lot, for them I always have the answer: 'I'm fine.' There were always enough problems on the ships, but with the fatigue and depression of the crew, they can increase, we try to look after each other and ensure, the main goal is to return everyone home safe and sound! What I am most looking forward to when I return home.... I don't even know, it already looks like some kind of dream... Of course, to hug my family, to be with them!
But despite all this negative, we 'seafarers' are still the strongest in spirit people, we must always remember about the power of the human spirit, there is nothing stronger, it is incredibly difficult to break it! And good luck to all of us in this difficult time, we can handle it, I'm sure!
SeafarerHelp is free and available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for seafarers around the world who need assistance or support. All the helpline contact details and Live Chat can be found at seafarerhelp.org.