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COVID-19 leads to many world seafarers being stranded at sea

Another side effect of the global COVID-19 pandemic has been the estimated 200,000 seafarers stranded at sea. Many of these workers have been aboard ships for more than a year as shipping companies are unable to bring in replacement crews. Without a break, fatigue and mental illness surface among workers, leading to major concerns about safety.

When the pandemic hit, a number of seafarers extended their contracts in order to maintain the flow of global goods such as food, medicine and fuel. Roughly 80% of the world’s traded goods arrive by ships. However, those extra months have taken their toll on seafarers, many of whom want to go home.

Louisiana home to three vital ports

This is important news in Louisiana, too. The Pelican State is home to three vital ports that include South Louisiana, New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Between them they manage international and domestic cargoes, including soybeans, corn, rise, asphalt, limestone, coal, coffee, plastics and chemicals.

Seafarers typically work every day and up to 12 hours a day. It is necessary that they remain alert due to the nature of their jobs and any potential work-related hazards. Many of them have worked much longer than their contracts allow, so not only do concerns exist for safety and humanitarian reasons, but for regulatory reasons as well.

A great number of seafarers have complained about exhaustion, anxiety and mental stress. This is concerning because mentally and physically drained seafarers have a greater risk of becoming seriously or mortally injured on the job.

An estimated 1.2 million seafarers are on ships at any time. Currently, roughly 200,000 are stranded at sea and another 200,000 stranded ashore because they are not able to participate in crew changeovers. Many global ports will not allow crews ashore, and, sometimes implement a two-week quarantine, making changeovers unachievable.