The plight of the seafarer during the COVID-19 pandemic has garnered global attention, but according to Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO of DNV GL – Maritime, more action is needed.

“This is quite remarkable. After all of the attention, from public addresses by the Secretary General of the IMO and even having the Pope engaged to have the seafarer crisis resolved, and still we are in the very unfortunate situation with more than 300,000 seafarers adrift and unable to return home.”

According to Ørbeck-Nilssen a key missing ingredient to resolve the problem is a recognition, globally, that seafarers are essential workers. “I think this is an absolute minimum, and I think they should be regarded the same way doctors and nurses are; as critical workers facilitating the transportation of goods and medical equipment globally.”

Ørbeck-Nilssen believes that help will only come when political leaders decide to take action. “I would encourage heads of state to really engage and agree on one protocol, for uniformity of treatment of seafarers so that we don’t have different rules port by port. It requires action by top levels of politicians. The unfortunate thing, for many, seafarers are not a part of their constituency.”

While the humanitarian aspects of keeping men and women at sea for extended periods, a situation which seriously impacts seafarers, their families, and even the seafarers ashore that are unable to rotate onto their ships, is the primary focus of the crisis, Ørbeck-Nilssen sees a bigger problem lurking.

“With the elongated terms on ships, with seafarers not able to transfer, it really becomes a safety issue,” he said. Particularly when vessels are approaching or inside ports, seafarers that are fatigued and unsure when they will be able to return home exposes the ship and crew to risk. “I’m sorry to say that when an incident occurs, and we can relate it back to this, the responsibility lies with the top politicians for their lack of action.”

This post appeared first on MarineLink News.

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