COVID-19 and the Health of Maritime Workers

COVID-19 and the Health of Maritime Workers

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of commerce, and in many fields the safety of workers has been compromised and affected. This is especially true for seamen, longshoremen and the full range of maritime workers.  A Miami maritime injury lawyer believes there is a crisis affecting hundreds of thousands of these workers, and action must be taken to ensure the health and safety of this work force.

International labor regulations mandate a maximum of eleven months for the duration of an on-board contract. Because of the pandemic, many seafarers are trapped on board ships, therefore extending contracts beyond the original tour of duty.  Some maritime workers have been on board as long as 18 months with no indication as to when they will be able to return to land. As of October 2020, roughly 400,000 seamen and women and other maritime workers are in this unhealthy work situation.

While these maritime workers are, by law, allowed to stop work following the terms of the contract, ceasing work would cause a number of issues. Without maintenance, the vessel is more at risk for an accident or even sinking. Workers are worried about fatigue, illness, or an accident that can harm property, the marine environment, or even threaten human life. A Miami maritime injury lawyer adds that many of these workers are currently not being paid, and even more are not receiving treatment for injuries or illnesses sustained while on the job. In many situations workers with illness or injuries that have nothing to do with the job are denied access to hospitals on shore due to COVID-19 restrictions.

These restrictions aren’t only directly related to the concerns of COVID-19 infection, according to a Miami maritime injury lawyer. Travel delays and cancellations are preventing replacement crews from making it to port on time. Port restrictions and rates vary by nation, state, and region, so often smaller shipping companies are searching for the optimal location to unload cargo and change crews. And a shifting supply chain makes scheduling even more difficult.

The most important step needed to ensure the safety of maritime workers is to facilitate a consistent standard worldwide for crew transition as well as docking procedures. A two-week quarantine period prior to boarding would be a strong step. Providing rooms for seafarers prior to boarding at no cost would assist in implementing a safety plan. These steps are a governmental concern but cannot take place without the assistance of the multinational corporations and financial institutions that depend on maritime workers for the success of their businesses and investments.

Edward Powell