ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp is a free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Many seafarers have found themselves stranded on board due to countries around the world closing their ports to crews during the COVID-19 lockdown. Luciana* was in quarantine on a cruise ship when she contacted SeafarerHelp for support.
Luciana explained to SeafarerHelp that the guests had disembarked a month ago and all contracts except for the skeleton crew were being terminated. The crew had been told that they would be sent home at the end of the month when docking in their homeport in Australia.
Measures were in place on board to protect the crew against COVID-19, including daily temperature checks of all crew members and sanitising of the whole ship several times a day. However, port restrictions meant that the cruise ship was unable to dock when it arrived at the port, and the crew could not disembark. The seafarers were then placed in isolation and told to stay in their cabins for 72 hours.
Luciana was unhappy – she said many of the cabins were dark with no natural light or fresh air, poor ventilation, poor or no WiFi signal and no mobile phone service. She was stressed, crying often, and had lost her appetite. Her sleep was regularly disturbed by phone calls and messages over the PA, and she had lost faith in the company.
Despite no apparent COVID-19 cases on board, the isolation for non-working crew members was then extended indefinitely. Luciana and her crewmates had now spent almost a month in quarantine on board, with no salary and unable to leave the ship or even take a walk outside.
The SeafarerHelp team took the time to listen to Luciana’s worries and how she was feeling. They reassured her that she was not alone in this situation – the COVID-19 pandemic had taken the world by surprise and lots of countries were closing their ports, meaning many companies were asking crew members to stay on board. The team gave Luciana some suggestions on how she could reduce her anxiety while on board and referred her to ISWAN’s Good Mental Health resources for more tips and coping strategies. They also gave Luciana guidance about her rights as a seafarer and, with her consent, referred her case to the ITF Seafarer Support team for further assistance.
At the time of writing, Luciana’s case is still open and the SeafarerHelp team is checking in with her to see if she needs any further support.
If you are a seafarer or family member of a seafarer and need someone to talk to, you can speak to a member of the SeafarerHelp team confidentially – all our contact details can be found at seafarerhelp.org.
*This seafarer’s name has been changed to protect their privacy.