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Unions fight to protect emergency medical care access during pandemic

27 April 2020

Unions and shipowners have joined forces globally to urge governments to respect seafarers' rights to emergency medical treatment after reports some injured and sick crew had been refused treatments at ports due to Covid-19 restrictions

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and the Joint Negotiating Group (JNG) called for governments to respect seafarers' fundamental human rights and to urgently allow access to medical care and treatment.

'Seafarers are key workers and without their professional services and commitment, citizens of the world would be much worse off.'

In one case a seafarer who exhibited signs of a stroke, confirmed by a doctor from the telemedicine assistance company Global Voyage Assistance, was also refused a request for medical evacuation, by the local port authorities citing Covid-19 restrictions, despite two requests from the ship's Master.

Four days after the request and after intervention from ITF affiliates, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO),the seafarer was finally disembarked and taken to a hospital.

'The (ILO) Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) is clear – a seafarer, while working on board, has the right to adequate health protection and access to prompt and adequate medical care including essential dental care. This must be as comparable as possible to that which is generally available to workers ashore and include the right to be allowed to visit a qualified medical doctor or dentist without delay in ports of call.'

The JNG includes the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC), the International Mariners Management Association of Japan (IMMAJ) and ITF. When the ITF and the JNG get together to negotiate crew terms and conditions globally, they are known as the International Bargaining Forum (IBF). Nautilus is represented on this forum by the general secretary Mark Dickinson.


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