In this time of COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to keep the world’s supply chain moving. Around 80% of global trade is transported by commercial shipping, which moves the world’s food, energy and raw materials. Seafarers have come under increased checks and scrutiny in various ports and are highly encouraged to follow the preventive measures. It is also important to recognise that seafarers are also key workers as they tirelessly work through the crisis to keep the goods flowing.
Countries around the world are also closing borders to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has left thousands of seafarers having to extend their service for a month or perhaps even longer, depending on how the pandemic progresses.
Hani Aqidah Ismail, an Engine Cadet from Tripartite Engineering Training Award programme, a place-and-train programme initiated by SMOU, has been sailing since 11th Oct 2019. She shared that while countries across the globe are responding to the COVID-19 crisis, the first focus of the company is to protect the safety, health and well-being of the seafarers.
“We were provided with sufficient amount of personal protective equipment such as face masks and gloves. As we move across ports around the world, we were made to follow the high standards of preventive measures and observe necessary health protocols.”, said Hani.
When asked about the morale of the crew onboard, she shared that amongst the crew members, most of them feel anxious especially with the growing cases of COVID-19 infection all over the world. This brings up enormous uncertainty they do not get to see close family for months on end, needing to ensure that they are safe and well.
“We have to remain calm and positive in this situation and draw strengths with the people around us to better manage the pressure and stress. To cope with this difficult time, we would balance time between getting some physical exercise, having some quiet time and connecting with family and friends as often as you can.” Hani told SeaVoices.
Support for crew
The International Labour Organisation has urged governments and employers to respect international labour standards for seafarers, to benefit their health and well-being, and be consistent with the operational requirements of their positions.
“I would reach out to SMOU officials for advice if I were to encounter a situation where I am unable to sign-off, unsure of my rights, or struggling with stress or mental health issues. Although they cannot come on board, they are often at the end of the phone with a listening ear to help. Above all, be kind to yourself. These circumstances are really unusual and will put pressure on everyone onboard. Offering support to each other may be the most important strength of all.”, said Hani.
While the COVID-19 ‘ripple effect’ could be felt for many months to come, it is important to recognise that the global maritime transport industry is playing a critical role in the response as they supply the world.
SeaVoices will be following Hani’s journey as she is due to sign off this June.
Together, we can get through this!