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Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg warned of a humanitarian and trade crisis if the roughly 800,000 seafarers stranded around the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic aren’t offered similar protections and rights to other essential workers.
Solberg is using her speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday to draw global attention to the issue. In an interview with Bloomberg News shortly before she was due to address the assembly, Solberg said she was calling on “all member states to say that seafarers are essential workers,” and asking that the International Maritime Organization’s protocol for crew changes be enforced.
“Large parts of the world’s trade is in ships, in terms of medicines, energy and food,” Solberg said. If no effort is made to free the stranded seafarers, “then shipping will eventually stop, which could have major repercussions for the world economy.”
The pandemic has left the shipping industry facing a trade and humanitarian crisis as crew members are often prevented from disembarking, in some cases for up to a year, according to Solberg. The current situation ignores IMO requirements, withreports suggesting that some of those affected have been stranded without pay.
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“It’s awful for the sailors who experience this, and it’s awful for their families back home,” Solberg said. “I expect the world community to look into this,” she said. “We expect greater action to be taken from both UN member states and other countries.”
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