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Seafarer mental health: lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic

Seafarer mental health: lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic
Ilaria Grasso Macola 2 November 2020

With 800,000 still affected, the plight of seafarers is far from being over. While the industry campaigns for their safe release, what has been done to address their mental health? Ilaria Grasso Macola finds out.

Much has already been said about the plight of seafarers who have been stranded at sea for months because of the Covid-19 travel restrictions.

The situation – which has been defined numerous times as a humanitarian crisis by international bodies such as the International Maritime Organization and the International Labour Organization – doesn’t show any sign of improving, with more than 800,0000 seafarers still affected at the time of writing.

On 24 September, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has renewed his plea to member states and asked them to designate seafarers as key workers, allowing crew changes.

“I remain very concerned about the growing humanitarian and safety crisis facing hundreds of thousands of these indispensable workers,” Guterres said in a statement. “Physically and mentally exhausted, away from their families and loved ones, their time at sea has now been extended far beyond the standards stipulated in international conventions, with some tours of duty now stretching more than 17 months.”

While international bodies and the overall maritime industry continue to campaign with governments to release their crews, what has been done to address seafarers’ mental wellbeing?

Some organisations, such as industry body Maritime UK, are working to change the culture, providing mental health support to those at sea not only during the pandemic but every day.