A DPA who doesn't answer his phone? Endless promises of essential spares only for them never to arrive? Crew-changes cancelled (again) due to a sheer lack of will to get seafarers home?
This might all sound a bit far-fetched, and for most of you I hope that your careers have safely navigated well clear of these isolated dangers. However, for some of us, this is our reality, and due to the hard economic times we find ourselves in, all we can do is grit our teeth and bear with it.
Covid-19 has posed challenges to almost everything we seafarers took for granted. Be it surveys, shore leave or, worst of all, crew-change. Despite more than 1,800 signatures to the Nautilus petition calling for an end to the crew-change crisis, we now find ourselves bearing the brunt of another setback due to the latest variants of coronavirus. Having imposed 'Managed quarantine' on 14 February 2021, the UK government has allowed an exemption to seafarers, masters and surveyors alike arriving from countries not on the red list. But for those who find themselves in the unfortunate position of being in a listed country, a further 11 nights of separation at the end of a long trip awaits.
How is this linked to the start of this letter, I hear you ask? Well, who do you think will pay the £1,750 charge for this essential – year after the fact – safety measure? It is almost assumed that companies will bear the brunt of this, but there isn't a statement to be found in the legislation to encourage it. Most reputable employers wouldn't even need to think about the correct action to take. However, as seafarers, we know the world isn't all fair winds and calm seas. These costs are expensive, even for an industry accustomed to the marine tariff we see added to everything from loo roll to internet. So it is obvious that it will be the seafarers who will most certainly bear the brunt of these costs.
In the case of companies operating the policy like the one described here in the opening lines, it'll be the seafarers themselves who fork out for the right to return home. Or as my MP recently put it to me in a response to my outrage: 'In Taiwan the cost of the accommodation is paid by the government, which, whilst still requiring you to quarantine, at least doesn't "fine" you for the pleasure.'
Fined to work, eh? And I bet you thought 2021 couldn't be any worse than last year.
Membership no 1211390