I am the wife of a seafarer, I knew before marriage that my husband will be away from home for months. Thank god I am a working professional; my work keeps me busy. I was prepared for a lot of things but not for this pandemic.
I would lie If I say that it is fine, somebody has to work. But what saddens me more is seeing the plight of the seafarers. The Companies, the government has closed their eyes towards the issues which are being faced by the seafarers during this hard time.
The Big question which every seafarer has in mind is- when the Companies will make efforts to restore the crew change. It is mentally exhausting and frustrating for both the seafarers who are waiting for sign off, their families, and the ones who are waiting to sign on. My husband was supposed to sign off in April, however, there is no clarity so far as to when he will return home. It’s more like companies are not even making efforts. It is not only about him but many more who are stranded overseas. There are so many who are way past their contract time and now the Companies, to keep themselves compliant of laws are forcing the seafarers to accept the extension of their contracts.
Every morning since the Lockdown, the first thing I do is, checking the maritime news, when the international flights will start, will the seafarers be allowed on Vande Bharat flights. But every day I fail to find answers to my questions.
I feel sad for the seafarers, for their families as I understand what they are going through. On the other hand, I feel proud of being strong and accepting the situations because nothing seems to be working in our favor. But it seems that nobody cares.
The seafarers who are away from home, working 24×7, are not even considered stranded by our beloved government. It’s not that they are not making efforts but who will think for the people who are away from their home? Ministry of External Affairs, India (MEA) is on the job to bring back the stranded Indian citizens in the foreign land but our seafarers are not included even in the category. These were not even evacuating flights but controlled commercial flights initiated to help the Indian citizens. Can’t the same be used for the crew change?
Nobody is refusing to follow the quarantine procedure, the same SOP can be used for crew change as well. As per the media houses, the Vande Bharat flights operated out of India to 3 locations i.e., London, Chicago, and Riyadh, while Riyadh has zero passengers, London had 69 passengers and Chicago flight had 329 passengers. The vacant seats could have been used for the crew change.
Recently, it was reported that the Captain of a ship (China Dawn) diverted the route towards India after securing permission from the Ship-owners citing mental exhaustion. The news was good to read at first, but later, the interpretation came on the Indian seafarers losing their credibility during hard times, such incident causes irreparable damage to the reliability of Indian Seafarers and companies might prefer hiring cheaper (crew) nationality.
During such hard times when we need our family members around us, the seafarers’ families are bearing all the stress on their own. Yes, we signed up for this, but what is the government’s responsibility in all this? We do not require medical insurance, we earn enough to sustain ourselves, but more than financial, we need emotional support during this hard time.
This is not only about the Government but the ship companies as well. The seafarers stranded on the ships and their families waiting for them are the real sufferers. The only positive light we can see is that ultimatum given by the IMO for the crew change by 15 June. I hope to see my husband soon.
The article is submitted by Bhavya Solanki, a seafarers’ wife.
The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Maritime Post.