Ghanaian seafarers currently stuck on vessels are battling the stress of isolation while those on land continue to rue their lost incomes as the virus pandemic rages.
The worldwide lockdowns and bans on travel have seen some seafarers stuck on vessels because they are not signing off, and since crew change has been halted, those at home cannot go on board vessels.
This means that the impact of the coronavirus crisis is being felt harshly on both sides of the profession: that is, seafarers stuck on ships and seafarers stuck in their homes.
“Definitely, like all businesses that shut down, seafarers on land at the moment are not earning any money and, of course, the economic effects on their families and dependents are increasing,” Ing. Teddy Mensah, First Vice-President of the Maritime Professionals Club (MPC), the mother body of seafarers and marine labour in Ghana, told Business24 in an exclusive interview.
He added: “The marine job is such that while you are at home, you are not earning anything; you only earn money during the time you are working and that means as long as they remain at home, they have to depend on their savings, which is not the best for anybody.”
While seafarers at home count their loss of income, those still working on vessels are battling severe stress and isolation because they are “locked down” at sea.
Because of the stress associated with the job, marine workers are normally engaged on vessels for a few months, ranging from three to eight, depending on the intensity of work.
At the end of their service, there is a crew change when the vessel comes to shore for a new set of mariners to get on board.
But now, because of Covid-19, ships are getting to ports alright, but seafarers cannot get off the ships to interact with family, take fresh air or buy basic consumables, all of which add to their stress levels.
“With this situation that we are facing now, people are forced to remain on vessels. Those stuck on ships are being overworked, and because of the stress and isolation associated with the job, the impact of the virus crisis on seafarers could be dire,” Ing. Mensah said.
“It affects their safety of work and sense of judgement; some may not have interest in the job they are doing anymore. The longer they stay at sea, the more their morale goes down; it affects their work performance and safety awareness, which could lead to accidents or disasters at sea.”
Thousands of seafarers remain trapped at sea, on containerships and other cargo vessels, by coronavirus travel restrictions—which is a threat to supply chains, according to the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).