Following the British Chamber of Commerce podcast episode in June 2020 which discussed seafarers’ mental health at the peak of the pandemic, the COVID-19 virus continues to significantly impact the maritime industry and its seafarers. In a recent podcast episode, Toh Soon Kok, Singapore Port Chaplain for The Mission to Seafarers (MtS) talks to Chris Jones, Consultant at HFW about the circumstances in Singapore, almost twelve months later.
In July 2020, many seafarers felt the worst of the pandemic had passed, and there was increased optimism as national borders appeared to be opening once more. However, as the year continued, there was the realisation that the pandemic was far from over.
Shore leave, which was once a fundamental part of life as a seafarer, became impossible. In Singapore, there is a slow recovery and hope on the horizon. With chaplains and visitors now able to visit the vessel gangway, communicate with the crew in a socially distanced manner, or leave gifts of gratitude and support, such as toiletries, confectionery and books, seafarers are being provided with respite and hope.
There is also a significant focus on education and supporting the mental and physical wellbeing of crew at sea. MtS Singapore and Wallem Group are providing online emotional support and resources for seafarers through virtual clinical psychologists and educational programmes.
On the podcast, Toh Soon Kok, Singapore Port Chaplain, said: “Seafarers continue to be denied shore leave and we are unable to visit the ships physically like we used to. However, things are beginning to turn around. The Maritime Port Authority in Singapore is working hard to respond to the challenges within the maritime sector and our shore-based workers are on Rostered Routine Testing (RRT) to ensure an additional protection shield is provided to seafarers.”
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is calling on governments to treat seafarers as key workers and prioritise vaccination to keep global supply chains moving. These appeals are reflected in two resolutions adopted during the Special Tripartite Committee (STC) of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.
The podcast also discussed the logistical issues with vaccinating seafarers worldwide, and the tangible benefits of providing onboard WiFi and internet connectivity. To listen to the podcast in full, please click here.
*Photo was taken pre-pandemic.