COVID-19: German initiative helps stranded seafarers connect

18 May 2020


COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing limitations put on travel have left thousands of seafarers stranded around the world. Unable to travel home from wherever they were supposed to end their voyage, they’ve been stuck on ships, with few means of communication with friends and family. While seafarers are used to spending long periods away from home, the current prolongations without a clear end in sight are putting a lot of strain on their health. Currently, 150,000 seafarers are stuck on their ships, among them 25,000 seafarers from the EU, UK, and Norway, 40,000 from the Philippines, and 20,000 from India.

ETF affiliate ver.di responded to this dire situation last week and took action. Jointly with the German Shipowners’ Association, they launched a donation campaign, providing prepaid mobile phone cards and Wi-Fi boxes to seafarers stranded in German seaports. 400 prepaid mobile phone cards worth 10,000 euros, along with 25 Wi-Fi boxes with a total value of 18,600 euros, were donated for use on ships while they’re stationed in ports. Donations were delivered to the seamen’s club DUCKDALBEN in Hamburg and will be distributed to seafarers by representatives of the seamen’s mission.

The joint action offers a vital immediate relief to seafarers, and also highlights the urgent need for a more comprehensive political approach. Maya Schwiegershausen-Güth, head of the international contract offices of the ITF at the trade union ver.di, commented on the situation: “It’s causing a heavy emotional burden and can increase the risk of accidents onboard. In the short term, this campaign will enable our social partners and us to help the seafarers in these difficult times. In the long run, this issue will need to be resolved by political means.


Photo credit: Mauricio Bustamante/ver.di