Q4 2021 Shoreleave

4.63 up from 4.6

A very small rise in the issue of shoreleave – but seemingly more as a reflection that it has gone about as low as it can. Seafarers do not expect to get ashore, and the pandemic has changed the dynamic further.

In past reports, seafarers spoke of their anger, frustration and disappointment of not being able to get ashore. That is no more, now it is purely an accepted part of life at sea. Seafarers so rarely get to leave the vessel, we had many reports from crew who said they hadn’t left a vessel in over six or more months. While others said that in the past two or more years of working, they hadn’t had the chance to access shoreleave.

“At the moment due to the pandemic, being a seafarer means you are in full lockdown on the vessel the period you are on board”, which is something that needs more consideration and thought in tackling. There has been much talk ashore about the impacts on mental health of lockdowns, but seafarers are in this state constantly.

Vaccinated seafarers feel that they should be able to get ashore and that they should not be treated any differently to “shore workers being able to leave their place of work, observing the normal mitigations such as social distancing, mask-wearing and hand sanitising”.

There are also seemingly issues about shipping companies not wanting to allow crews ashore, “Every seafarer understands that if the local population is locked down, then a vessel in that port should also be locked down. However, when local authorities are allowing shore leave, yet shipping companies still hold personnel onboard against their will, then we have serious problems to address”.

While many places have understandably prohibited shoreleave during COVID, indeed many seafarers supported the stance to limit exposure and mixing. However, they also expressed hopes that as the pandemic decreases, then the issue can be revisited and new ways of ensuring seafarers can take a break from work will emerge. As one said, “Hopefully all ports considered us giving shoreleave consideration when the pandemic decreases”.

Alas, it seems likely there will be a long term knock-on effect, and seafarers are unlikely to view shoreleave as a normal part of their working life. That is a shame, but it is also a significant tipping point in the evolution of seafaring culture. “Go to sea and see the world”, used to be the big selling point of a career in the Merchant Navy. That is no longer the case, and it does not seem it will ever be again.

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