Covid-19 has disrupted staffing on world’s shipping lanes with potentially disastrous consequences for international trade
The international shipping community is facing a major labour crisis, with sailors stranded on ships or at home because of visa and flight restrictions, maritime groups said.
With crew changes down by 75 per cent, a humanitarian crisis is also developing, with sailors suffering mental health problems, fatigue and accidents from being trapped for months at a time on ships.
With more than 200,000 sailors unable to leave their vessels and a similar number trying to get out to them, international shipping bodies believe the world economy is weeks from another disaster.
Last week, only 13 countries including the UAE, Britain and the United States, signed up to an agreement to designate sailors as key workers, allowing them to fly home without quarantine or visa issues.
But other major seafaring nations such as China and India refused to sign up, adding to the dangerous logjam that could affect the global economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
With ships transporting 80 per cent of global trade, the urgency to resolve the problem has been highlighted by the International Maritime Organisation, a UN body.
In a statement it said: “Three key requirements are needed to stop the crisis spiralling. Seafarers need to be designated as key workers globally, visa requirements need to be dropped, and governments need to get commercial airlines running to transport them.”
Some ship owners have resorted to chartering aircraft to turn around crews, at an estimated $800,000 . .
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