Sailors all at sea over COVID disruption

COVID-related disruption has caused chaos for months in international shipping lanes and the sailors who ply them as an estimated 250,000 are stranded, with crews refusing to set sail in protest

The Covid-19 pandemic is beginning to have an impact on fleet efficiencies as crews who have worked beyond their contracts demand to be repatriated.

The International Chamber of Shipping estimates that 250,000 sailors are stuck at sea or in foreign ports, sometimes suffering from both mental and physical exhaustion. The costs and logistical problems of sending them home is often prohibitive. The knock-on effect on the global supply chain is becoming evident.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation says that three vessels currently idling in Australia are “just the tip of the iceberg” and emblematic of the current issues. The three vessels are all sitting in Australian ports as crews refuse to sail due to these crews being embarked beyond their legal maximums set out in their contracts and not being repatriated as promised.

Huge numbers of merchant sailors have been unable to disembark once their contracts have ended and are now facing excessive times away from home.

Atlantic shipping has been less affected and shipowners are beginning to choose lengthier deviations to try and mitigate the risks.

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