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Home » The Human Element » If the 300,000 seafarers stuck at sea came from rich, white countries would there be a repatriation problem?

If the 300,000 seafarers stuck at sea came from rich, white countries would there be a repatriation problem?

PortandTerminal.com, June 18, 2020

Let’s call it what it is. One of the reasons 300,000 seafarers languish at sea waiting to come home is racism plain and simple.

HALIFAX, CANADA – Statistically, most of the people who work on cargo ships share three things in common. They’re not white, they come from poorer nations and they’re out of sight, tucked away on vessels making sure our sneakers, soybeans and petroleum get delivered on time.

Why is repatriating a group of people whom we dare call “essential workers” yet treat so poorly such a problem?

How is that we were able to repatriate thousands of rich, white cruise ship passengers stranded on COVID-19 infected ships not long ago but are unable to bring home the hardworking seafarers we are relying upon to help drag us out of global economic recession?

Cruise ship passengers stranded on cruise ship in quarantine and desperate to go home.
Cruise ship passengers stranded on cruise ship in quarantine and desperate to go home.

Demographics – Brown and Poor

Wives and families of seafarers stuck at sea launched a campaign to bring awareness to their plight #BringHomeSailors

According to the International Chamber of Shipping, the worldwide population of seafarers serving on internationally trading merchant ships is estimated at 1,647,500 seafarers, of which 774,000 are officers and 873,500 are ratings.

Crew members take a break to connect with family members.
Crew members take a break to connect with family members. Many seafarers trapped in ships now have not seen their loved ones in over a year

China, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine are estimated to be the five largest supply countries for all seafarers (officers and ratings).

The Philippines is the biggest supplier of ratings, followed by China, Indonesia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. While China is the biggest supplier of officers, followed by the Philippines, India, Indonesia and the Russian Federation.

Why are they so many people of color crewing our ships? Because we can pay them less and they’re grateful to have the jobs. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

Filipino seafarers stranded amid the coronavirus pandemic in Manila
Filipino seafarers stranded amid the coronavirus pandemic in Manila on April 29, 2020. The Philippines has some 385,000 sailors, almost a quarter of the world’s 1.6 million seafarers.
PHOTO: FRANCIS R. MALASIG/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

How serious is the crisis now?

How serious is the crew repatriation crisis? Serious enough that the pope addressed the growing humanitarian seafarer crisis yesterday from the Vatican.

In a video message from June 17, the pope told seafarers and people who fish for a living that “in these past months, your lives and your work have seen significant changes; you have had to make, and are continuing to make, many sacrifices.”

“Long periods spent aboard ships without being able to disembark, separation from families, friends and native countries, fear of infection — all these things are a heavy burden to bear, now more than ever,” the pope said.

It’s not often that the Pope weighs in on global logistics issues so you know things must be pretty bad.

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