Thursday, February 11, 2021

Maritime Union Unhappy with Government Policy on Quarantine for Seafarers

Double Standards for Lifeline Workers
Shipping News Feature

UK – WORLDWIDE – Nautilus, the union which represents 20,000 maritime professionals including ship masters (captains), officers and officer trainees, has urged the government to rethink its policy to refuse key worker seafarers the right not to refrain from hotel quarantine during the pandemic.

Despite intense lobbying by the industry including by Nautilus, the government has refused so far to countenance the exclusion of UK resident seafarers despite being among the first countries in the world to recognise seafarers as key workers and to call on others to recognise their essential role in keeping maritime supply chains moving.

It is understood that Scotland currently exempts seafarers, and those involved in essential supply chains for goods coming into the country, from its hotel quarantine requirements. However the Scots are pressing for a coordinated four nation approach and say discussions on this are currently under way. Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said:

“To manage the risk of importing new variants, and to give vaccine deployment the best chance of bringing us closer to normality here in Scotland, we have to place further limits on international travel. The UK Government has only committed to adopting this for travellers returning from ‘red list’ countries. However, we know that is not sufficient and we will go further. The clinical advice is clear that a comprehensive system of managed quarantine is essential to minimise the impact of new Covid19 variants."

The new measures in England require that, before any travel is undertaken, an online booking is made for a quarantine package costing £1,750 per person, which includes the hotel, food, transport, and testing for the ten-day isolation period.

The list of countries from which travel is currently banned include several where there are major offshore oil and gas projects which provide employment for significant numbers of the British maritime professionals. These include offshore Brazil, Namibia and Nigeria. Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson observed:

“I am dismayed that the government has not followed its own policy of recognising the essential role that seafarers play in keeping supply chains open. If the principle that seafarers are exempt from Covid-19 measures because they work in an essential service and because they work on ships, do not mingle with the general populations of high risk countries, and only travel under strict health and safety protocols to mitigate the health risks, I fear for what lies ahead.

“If more and more countries are added to the red list, the jobs and livelihoods of my members are at risk. We already know the Covid-19 financial support that the government provides does not extend to the majority of British seafarers. Seafarer's must not be left to carry the can for additional Covid measures, including the costs of any hotel quarantine. Their employers will have to pay, and no leave should be sacrificed either.”

Photo: Courtesy of Nautilus.