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Health and safety

Maritime professionals top of agenda as Union and social partners lobby for vital protections

20 March 2020

The importance of maritime and shipping professionals to the world economy has been driven home by Nautilus International in highlighting the vital role they play keeping trade and goods flowing – including medical supplies - during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Working with international, regional and domestic social partners, the trade union for maritime professionals has secured important commitments from governments and industry to support seafarers and water transport workers during this unprecedented time.

An important success was the British government recognising that those working in water transport including seafarers are key workers, thereby exempting them from travel restrictions, and supporting childcare and educational requirements, helping support members in their work.

In the Netherlands our strong social partnership quickly delivered a range of measures designed to keep the industry working.

'We were at first very fearful that shipping and seafarers was going to be ignored. But we are part of a movement that's turned it around and now seafarers are top of the agenda and our members contribution is being recognised as critical  to keeping trade moving,' Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said.

'I'm confident we can carry this movement forward over the coming weeks and months and am hopeful that it signals a permanent change.

'Everybody seems to be genuine in their determination to get through this incredibly difficult time.

‘I have more confidence now that seafarers, and all water transport workers, will now be seen as part of the solution, not the cause of the problem.'

During the week the general secretary took part in several teleconferences and videoconference to press home the issues facing seafarers domestically and internationally. Meetings where held between all the TUC transport trade unions with Department for Transport (DfT) officials and then separately with Transport Ministers including Kelly Tolhurst who now leads on maritime issues. Nautilus pressed home the fact that seafarers and other supply chain professionals must be classified as key workers and allowed to do their jobs otherwise trade will grind to a halt and supermarket shelves could not be restocked.

Nautilus also participated in global cross industry stakeholder talks, led by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF). That resulted in a joint open letter urging four UN bodies to use their influence on national governments so that seafarers can be recognised as key workers and treated accordingly.

The Union worked with three United Nations agencies, the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) covering common issues faced by transport workers.

By Friday Nautilus with the Rail and Maritime Transport (RMT) had met with DFT and Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) officials to drill down to specific issues affecting seafarers including concerns about job security, sick pay and the consequences of colleges closing, oral exams being cancelled and ferries moving to reduced manning due to the collapse in passenger footfall.

The maritime unions expressed their support for emergency financial measures for the industry being called for by the Chamber of Shipping. Nautilus continued to lobby to ensure that crew changes and repatriation, with many countries shutting their borders, blocking seafarers from disembarking and flights being cancelled. The UK confirmed that it would seek to ensure that seafarers can join and leave their vessels and take shore leave.

The Union will continue to push for governments, shipowners and operators to support seafarers' physical and mental health during the crisis, including the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and medical testing equipment.

'We're determined to continue to work with all social partners at international, regional and national level to deliver positive outcomes for our members and for maritime professionals across the world.

‘Everyone is doing everything they can to support the effort to keep the industry moving and I am immensely proud of my team here at Nautilus, in all our branches, for their commitment to keep the show on the road and support our members. Our social partners and all the organisations we work with have shown tremendous commitment,’ Mr Dickinson said.

* Listen to Mark Dickinson on the Lloyd's List podcast: supporting seafarers


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