Nautilus has called for shipowners and training providers to bring British cadets home, should they wish, at the next available port.
Cadets as young as 16 could remain onboard as some companies with crew change bans in place are unwilling to allow them to leave.
'The present situation, whilst dynamic, is likely set to worsen in the coming weeks and months and those cadets who wish to be repatriated or those cadets who have completed the required sea-time, should be allowed to leave their vessels and not be trapped onboard for an indefinite period of time,' Nautilus strategic organiser Martyn Gray said.
The Union has been approached by several cadets who have been refused off-signing at British ports by their employer despite the UK Shipping Minister Kelly Tolhurst pledging on March 25 to support seafarers and enable disembarkation and crew changes.
The union for maritime professionals has written to training providers with guidelines covering repatriation in keeping with what should be best practice in these challenging times.
In keeping with best practice, any cadet who requests repatriation and has fulfilled their sea time, should be facilitated wherever possible and these cadets should be repatriated back to the UK at the earliest appropriate opportunity. Cadets with vessels calling at UK ports have the advantage that the UK remains open to crew transfer and potentially fewer risks with regards to transmission compared to international repatriation.
Cadets that have requested repatriation for compassionate reasons should be sent home wherever possible.
The Union also is seeking additional support for Maritime Training, ensuring that all Trainee Maritime Professionals do not suffer a detriment as a consequence of the present crisis.
Cadets are regarded as supernumery crew, meaning they should not be doing the job of a fully qualified seafarer.
Cadets pose a low risk of transmitting the virus onboard as they are not required to be replaced on off-signing.
Nautilus international is committed to working with industry and social partners with respect to facing this crisis and ensuring that the safety and welfare of seafarers is met at all times.
Any organisation facing undue difficulties would be welcome to reach out to us directly for confidential support where possible and to ensure that regular communication between our organisations can take place.
Nautilus members who are experiencing difficulties related to the coronavirus outbreak are advised to contact their industrial organiser for assistance. In an emergency members can also contact the Nautilus 24/7 helpline.