This week, the ITF expressed ‘profound regret’ at the reported suicide of a young female seafarer on board ‘Regal Princess’ and the death of a young Chinese man on board the ‘Mariner of the Seas’.
Whilst an investigation is underway, it appears that the young Ukrainian seafarer took her own life in Rotterdam whilst awaiting repatriation home. The ITF said that it was also seeking more information about the circumstances of the death reported on board the ‘Mariner of the Seas’.
’Regal Princess’ arrived in Rotterdam on 6th May for the final phase of the repatriation process, and seafarers on board, including the deceased woman, were scheduled to return home on a charter flight on 8th May, but the flight was cancelled.
Crew members were then told that the next available flight was on 12th May, but tragically the women was said to have jumped from the ship and died after her chartered flight home was cancelled.
Due to the shortage of international air travel and government restrictions, and ports applying additional restriction to seafarers working on cruise ships, getting seafarers home is very challenging and thousands of cruise ship workers have been forced to remain on board their ships, the union said.
“The stress associated with social isolation for seafarers can be tough even in normal times, but what we are seeing through the Covid-19 pandemic is the tragic consequences that heightened stress and uncertainty is having on seafarers’ mental health,” said David Heindel, ITF seafarers’ section chair (pictured).
“Seafarers are being penalised by the strict restrictions put in place by governments to contain the spread of the virus, despite no justification or scientific proof that seafarers on cruise vessels pose any greater risk than other categories of workers or members of the public,” he stressed.
Around 150,000 seafarers are waiting to leave or join ships, with tens of thousands currently trapped on board ships worldwide, due to the continuing imposition of travel restrictions.
Seafarers’ unions are calling for the same response from government who facilitated the repatriation of tens-of-thousands of passengers in a matter of weeks from cruise ships around the world.
“It’s time for crews to be treated as humanely as passengers were. The ITF and our social partners warned just last week that failure to do so risks the wellbeing of seafarers, maritime safety, as well as the supply chains that the world relies on. Time has come to get these seafarers’ home before we see more people taking their lives,” Heindel warned.
Four crew members have now reportedly taken their lives in less than two weeks, the ITF said. On 9th May, a Carnival team member from Hungary died on board the ‘Carnival Breeze’. His fellow crew members found him dead in his cabin. This followed the death of a Royal Caribbean crew member from Poland who jumped overboard from the ‘Jewel of the Seas’ on 30th April.
“For the sake of seafarers’ health and mental wellbeing, it is now absolutely vital that governments and flag states redouble their efforts to facilitate the return home of all seafarers who are suffering a terrible burden at the present time. Our service to the global economy should not be taken for granted,” Heindel concluded.