COVID-19: Seafarers continue working, but are denied basic human rights

5 Jun 2020


An ILO webinar on COVID-19 and maritime labour issues took place online this morning, with representatives of various industry stakeholders, including Nautilus International, ETF affiliate.

Nautilus International General Secretary Mark Dickinson took part in the panel discussion and drew the attention of the participants to the urgency of the situation which is unravelling. The pandemic has exposed a number of weaknesses in the way the industry is currently governed and structured, and the unpreparedness of States to face such a crisis. He pointed out that seafarers are seeing their basic rights denied, and yet they continue working and keeping the global supply chain running. One of the ways to recognise their work is to recognise them as key workers in all countries. Protocols have been introduced to facilitate their travel, making the use by some States of force majeure as an excuse for not facilitating crew change and repatriation not relevant. The safety of life at sea and the protection of the marine environment are at risk due to continuous crew fatigue.



He also made it clear that extensions of contracts and exemptions from international obligations should now come to a halt, and countries should resume effective implementation of the Maritime Labour Convention to ensure safe conditions at sea. Seafarers are professionals but are also human beings who cannot be deprived of their basic rights. There’s a thin line between the denial of workers’ rights and forced labour.


Mark Dickinson’s contribution highlighted many demands the ETF has been making in the past few months to the European Commission and EU member states. To learn more about our work on facilitating seafarer travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, go here.

To learn more about other webinar speakers and their presentations, go here.

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