UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday called on governments to relieve the plight of seafarers on the occasion of World Maritime Day, which falls on September 30.

Covid-19 continues to place immense physical and mental pressures on the 2 million women and men who serve on the world’s merchant fleet, Xinhua news agency quoted Guterres as saying.

“Hundreds of thousands still face extended times at sea, with tours of duty stretching many months beyond their contracts. Unable to go to shore, repatriate and change crews, and without access to medical care, seafarers face a humanitarian crisis that jeopardises the safety and the future of shipping,” he added.

“I renew my appeal to governments to address their plight by formally designating seafarers and other marine personnel as ‘key workers,’ ensuring safe crew changes, implementing established protocols, and allowing stranded seafarers to be repatriated and others to join ships,” he said.

These critical workers must have access to national vaccination programs, and provisions should be made to vaccinate international seafarers at designated ports. Governments have a duty to comply with relevant international treaty obligations to render assistance to any seafarers in distress, including medical assistance, ensuring rights and needs of seafarers are respected, said Guterres.

The theme of this year’s World Maritime Day is “Seafarers: at the core of shipping’s future.”

–IANS

int/shs

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