Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Maritime Unions and Charities Step Up to Help Seafarers Through the Crisis

As the Virus Takes its Toll on Sailors Key to Supply Chain Help is at Hand
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – As the world faces up to the pandemic the very people upon who we all depend for our essential supplies, those working at sea to keep society fed, are often to be found in dire straits themselves. Now unions and charities are striving to support seafarers and their families.

Firstly, the ITF Seafarers’ Trust (ITFST) is launching an emergency fund to address the impact of the virus and aims also to provide a lifeline for welfare services at risk due to the financial impact the virus has had on business and fundraising and activities. The ITFST Covid-19 Welfare Fund has two main purposes:

  • to facilitate fast grant payments for specific projects to alleviate hardship, stress and isolation of seafarers and their families
  • to provide funds for the maintenance of seafarers’ welfare services during the period of instability caused by Covid-19 and the measures taken to combat the virus

The Trust says it is working closely with the TK Foundation to ensure a coordinated approach to funding and a swift response to the multiplicity of issues arising from the impact of the virus on global trade and the maritime community. The TK Foundation is a private foundation supporting non-profit maritime and youth programs. Dave Heindel, Chair of the ITF Seafarers’ Trust said:

“At the best of times seafarers struggle to get recognition for the amazing job they do ensuring the steady flow of household goods, food and commodities around the world. Now they have the incredible stress of being stranded far away from their families at a time of extreme distress. It is critically important that the ITF Seafarers’ Trust is there for them at this time of need.”

Applications can be made through a simplified application process that can be accessed online HERE. Cases relating to individual seafarers can also be addressed but applications must be made via ITF affiliated unions, ITF inspectors or welfare organisations. Head of ITF Seafarers’ Trust Katie Higginbottom added:

“As well as providing for seafarers, we also want to make sure that the welfare services that currently offer much appreciated welfare support for seafarers, survive to serve another day after this crisis is over.”

Meanwhile one of those services, international maritime welfare charity Sailors' Society, has launched a suite of practical resources including advice, contacts and podcasts to help seafarers during the coronavirus crisis. The organisation, which has stood beside seafarers through many dark times during its 202-year history, including two world wars, has also set up an appeal to fund urgent support for our key workers of the sea.

In the past few days, seafarers from all over the world have joined a special Facebook group set up by the charity to share news, tips and words of encouragement. Shipping companies have also contacted Sailors' Society, known globally for its award-winning wellness at sea programme, asking for help in supporting crews through the pandemic. Sandra Welch, the charity's COO and director of programme, said:

"We may not be able to greet seafarers in port right now, but we are here for them and their families as we always have been. Seafarers are deeply worried like everyone else and far from home and loved ones; many do not now know when or how they will get home again. While the rest of us struggle with suddenly only being able to see our family and friends on a video call, this is the reality for seafarers every day. And images of empty supermarket shelves are a stark reminder of how vital these men and women are to our supply chains, bringing almost everything we need by sea.

"Now they need support from us. Please share our resources with crews, partner with us to support seafarers through these turbulent months or give to our appeal enabling us to divert the full resources of the charity to help seafarers who are under immense mental and emotional strain, sick or, with many ports on lockdown, unsure when they will next work. We all rely on seafarers. Now, more than ever, they rely on us."

Two weeks ago, the charity announced it has rolled out virtual chaplaincy to seafarers, with chaplains available to seafarers over the phone or on social media, after it had to suspend port activity in response to the virus. To access these resources click HERE or to make a donation to the appeal it’s HERE.

Anyone interested in partnering with the Sailors' Society to help their crews can contact fundraising@sailors-society.org