Stranded Seafarers Could Stop Work, Disrupting World Trade



Elena Becatoros, Associated Press | US News & World Report

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Merchant ship crew members stranded at sea for months due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions could now start refusing to further extend their contracts and stop working, potentially disrupting global trade, the International Transport Workers’ Federation said late Monday.

The ITF, a global federation of transport workers’ unions, said in a statement it would “now assist hundreds of thousands of seafarers to exercise their right to stop working, leave ships, and return home.”

With more than 80% of global trade by volume transported by sea, the world’s more than 2 million merchant seafarers play a vital role in keeping countries supplied with everything from raw materials and fuel to food and consumer goods.

But lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed by countries across the world to curb the spread of the new coronavirus are preventing crew members who have reached the end of their contracts from leaving the ships and returning home. Many have been on board, without the possibility of setting foot on land even briefly, for several months beyond their original contracts.

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