Signals
Professional Mariner|December - January2021
A year into the pandemic, thousands ‘essentially indentured’ on ships
Amy Paradysz

Around the world, upward of 400,000 seafarers — and counting — are serving beyond their contracts as crew changes still don’t occur as regularly as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are more than 300,000 seafarers essentially indentured on their ships because they can’t get relieved,” said Donald Marcus, president of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P), addressing coronavirus-related travel restrictions that limit crew changes in many countries. “It could be a key problem in the global supply chain — and a lack of humanity — if this keeps up much longer.”

Guy Platten, secretary-general of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), said the group estimates that 400,000 mariners are beyond their contracts now, with the numbers still rising “because we’re not doing as many crew changes. It could go as high as 500,000, with another 500,000 waiting to get on board, so it could go as high as 1 million seafarers affected.”

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