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A stranded sailor near Panama
Image: Getty Images/AFP/M. Valenzuela

Up to 200,000 seafarers trapped on ships

June 8, 2020

The UN's labor agency has called on countries to allow for seafarers trapped on ships to return to shore. The agency says hundreds of thousands of sailors are stuck on vessels due to lockdown measures.


The hundreds of thousands of seafarers stranded at sea due to the coronavirus pandemic should be allowed to return home, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said Monday.

In a statement, the United Nations agency said that there were between 150,000 and 200,000 sailors stuck on ships because of lockdown measures to combat the new virus. Several countries have also prohibited crew changes with healthy workers to prevent the virus from spreading.

Many completed tours months ago but had their contracts extended due to the exceptional circumstances. The ILO said many were reporting mental health issues and physical exhaustion, which is hindering their ability to do their jobs.

Lockdowns leave sailors stuck on board

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder called on governments to classify these ship crews as "key workers" to allow for them to return to shore and be replaced by fresh workers.

"Forcing exhausted seafarers to continue working more than four months beyond the end of their contract is unacceptable. This jeopardizes their health and endangers maritime safety," Ryder said.

"We call on governments to work together to make these crew changes happen in safety."

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