Weathering the Storm of COVID-19: Advice for Seafarers

File image courtesy Clear Seas

Published Apr 1, 2020 8:58 PM by Chevanev Charles

In response to the global pandemic COVID-19, seafarers are in a vulnerable position. Seafarers are the lifeblood of the world economy. Isolation on a vessel is distinctly different from isolation on land. The following are tips that are recommended for seafarers to get through this difficult time. 

Balance your time

Seafarers have developed skills that people in the general population will have to learn in order to cope with the quarantine measures in response to the COVID-19 virus. These skills include knowing how to manage boredom by staying connected with people around you, remotely and through activities. Dr. Kate Thompson, a counseling psychologist with the ISWAN network, suggests that seafarers balance their time between (a) physical exercise; (b) quiet times; and (c) appropriate socializing, bearing in mind the need for adequate social distancing at this time. 

Pick news sources carefully

Being stuck on a ship during this period is a difficult situation. There are countless news sources that provide updates and speculative articles as well as analysis. There is nothing wrong with staying up to date, but the news may not help you feel calm. Limiting the amount of time you spend watching the news may help you to manage feelings of anxiety. Consider restricting your news consumption, and select only credible news sources. 

Contact your family frequently

It is normal to feel anxious and to want to go home to your family when there are threats of this kind. However, we have to be mindful of the dangers we can bring home with us. It might be safer to check on your family remotely and as often as you can. If you do head home, please know that you may be quarantined in transit, as some seafarers have been shocked to realize. Many shipping companies purchase airplane tickets that include stops in countries with strict public health measures, including mandatory quarantine. 

Keep clear records of your employment

It always helps to keep accurate records including your Seafarers Employment Agreement (SEA). In this period, keeping accurate records of your salary and other entitlements cannot be overstated. This protects you as well as your employer in the event of a later dispute and may be helpful in gaining future employment. It is a very worrying time and there are a lot of implications about the financial future in the aftermath of this pandemic. If you are worried about securing a job in the future, please remember that seafarers are a necessity and will always be needed. This crisis will end, though it may take some months to do so and shipping companies will be looking for staff to return. Albeit not reassuring now, taking the long view might help to combat the short-term tension we are all experiencing at the moment.

Self-quarantine upon returning home

If you feel sick once you return home, please call your local COVID hotline. Please remember that while you may feel strong and healthy you may still be an asymptomatic carrier. This is a very difficult time and it is wise to draw on all the resources available to you. 

Chevanev Charles is a graduate of the International Maritime Law Institute in Malta. He is a practicing lawyer and consultant who specializes in international maritime law.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.