06.04.2020

To the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation: Russian ports violate the labor rights of seafarers - members of the Seafarers Union of Russia

Upon discharging from the vessels entering Russian ports from foreign countries seafarers are not allowed getting ashore. The port and regional authorities explain this ban by measures to counteract coronavirus infection (COVID-2019). At the same time the procedures of counteraction  are  interpreted differently despite the fact that there is a resolution of the Chief sanitary doctor of the Russian Federation No. 7 of March 18. According to it, the regional authorities must organize the isolation of all Russians who arrived in the country from abroad for 14 days, either at home or to observator, but in on board the ship. 

However, in Murmansk, for example, by the order of Governor of Murmansk region 47 from March 16  crews of all ships arriving from foreign countries to the ports of Murmansk and Kandalaksha are prohibitted to go ashore if the ship's arrival and the moment of contacting it with the coast of a foreign state was less than 14 calendar days.
In this regard, the Seafarers Union of Russia (SUR) appealed to the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Mikhail Mishustin with request to charge the Ministry of Transport and Rospotrebnadzor to  establish a unified procedure for discharging of  Russian crewmembers  in Russian ports from vessels arriving from foreign ports amid countering the spread of COVID-2019.

"The work of  seafarers is carried out in such a way that from 2 to 6 months they  are employed  on the board the vessel, then they are replaced by another seafarers who are on leave at home for about the same time. This mode allows  to avoid excessive fatigue of the crewmembers, which can lead to accidents or wrecking," - the SUR says.
As you know  an overwhelming number of countries have banned the shore leave of seafarers from vessels calling at their ports, which makes it impossible to discharge those whose contracts of employment have been completed and sign on relivers. Therefore, shipowners are forced to organize the change of crewmembers in their countries of residence.

So the Russian seafarers can rather be  signed off and sign on in  Russian ports regardless of flag of vessel, if the vessel arrives into the Russian ports for loading and unloading or for other reasons, -says the Chairman of the Seafarers Union of Russia Yuriy Sukhorukov. However, exicting practice, in our opinion, is not systemic and, most importantly, does not protect against the spread of coronavirus. As well the seafarers rights for healthy working conditions and proper  rest are violated.  As for the situation in Murmansk, the ban for the shore leave of crewmembers after the contact of the ship with the coast of a foreign country can be justified only if the replacement of the crew is not performed  and the vessel remains in the port for several hours or two to three days  for  unloading/loading operations,according to the SUR. However, the regional authorities actually restrict the change of crews  until 14 days expire.

Instead of placing signed off seafarers to observator in accordance with the established procedure, a vessel itself is used as observator. Taking in mind the daily ship's demmurage  costs the shipowner several tens of thousands dollars, the shipowner is faced with a choice  to suffer serious losses or to prolong the contracts of the seafarers, violating their right for rest. In addition, if we talk about the coronavirus, it is impossible to ensure complete isolation of signed off seafarers on board the ship as they still continue to work and  communicate with other crewmembers, which will rather contribute to the spread of COVID-19 than prevent it. -says Yuriy Sukhorukov.

​​​ Demmurage of vessels also lead to disruption of the supply chain of vital goods around the world, so it is important to maintain common sense even in the face of a pandemic and anticipate the devastating consequences of taking rash steps.

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