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Plight of seafarers’ living conditions highlighted

7 July 2022

Action is needed to improve the wellbeing of seafarers who have been unable to take shore leave due to COVID-19, an expert from Cardiff University says.

Recent analysis by the Seafarers’ International Research Centre showed that in August last year, of 122 countries, 81 explicitly denied shore-leave to seafarers. This rose to 87 in December 2021.

A new animation based on guidelines drafted by SIRC, supported by Lloyd’s Register Foundation*, is launched this week in a bid to improve the experiences of seafarers. The guidelines are designed to supplement current regulatory minimum standards as laid out in the Maritime Labour Convention.

Professor Helen Sampson, based at Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences said: “In the course of the pandemic, seafarers have often been confined to their vessels and in many ports they have been unable to take shore leave. This has compounded the serious physical and psychological challenges they have faced as a result of being forced to stay on board for longer than their contracted period and of being restricted in their access to medical care.

“During the pandemic some seafarers have not been able to set foot on land at all, even though some have served much longer than their contracted periods and sometimes in excess of 12 months. Prior to COVID-19, we would have expected approximately 90% of seafarers working on cargo vessels to have had access to shore leave at some point during their contracts. In this context, it is vital that we raise awareness of the need to improve standards of shipboard accommodation.

“We need only look to the relatively recent past, and to some of our top quality tonnage today in the cargo and passenger sectors, to see examples of best practice in relation to the provision of facilities and space on board.”

Research completed by SIRC just before the start of the pandemic on seafarers’ mental health, indicated how important shipboard accommodation and facilities are to improving happiness and wellbeing on board, with seafarers speaking of the depressing nature of the shipboard environment in which they live and work for months on end.

The new animation has been launched in advance of Sea Sunday (July 10) which is held in the UK to remind Anglican parishioners and the wider community to remember seafarers and their needs.

Professor Sampson added: “We hope the new animation will raise awareness of the importance of accommodation design to seafarers and to future recruitment and retention in the industry and that it will make a significant and positive impact on the conditions of life onboard vessels.”

SIRC was established in 1995 with the aim of conducting research on seafarers. The Centre has a particular emphasis on issues of occupational health and safety. It is the only international research facility of its kind and has built up unparalleled experience of research in this field.

Watch the film here

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