Despite the fact that the coronavirus pandemic was declared by the WHO in March and recently the UN called on states to recognize seafarers as key workers, crewmembers still face problem and not least in the field of medicine. The recent case with a Russian seafarer demonstrated that health authorities can respond inadequately to cases of Covid-19 infection on board, putting the health of other crewmembers at risk. The Chief Engineer worked on a small ship that called the Finnish port of Hamina. He developed symptoms of the disease, after which he was taken to the hospital. The results of tests for coronavirus were positive, but the seafarer was told that since the disease is mild, he should return on board, despite the risk that he could infect his colleagues. In addition, when the company responsible for the seafarer asked a local agent for help him find somewhere else to self-isolate they were told that no local hotel would take someone who had tested positive. The seafarer returned to the ship, following which another member of the crew tested positive for the virus. When the seafarer's condition worsened and he was forced to return to hospital, the hospital authorities reportedly considered transferring him 2,000km to Russia by road. The hospital also refused to take the second crewmember as he did not have any symptoms, despite the risk that his condition might worsen if he were forced to remain on the ship during its upcoming voyage. Fortunately, the situation has now been resolved, but this was not due to any action by the authorities. «The rest of the crew have now tested negative, including the second seafarer who did not show symptoms, and a new Chief engineer is on board. The company has disinfected the accommodation and the vessel will sail shortly. The Chief engineer is still in hospital and is doing slightly better, ITF inspector Tommy Molloy said. There could be more problems if he needs to be isolated once discharged. It is unbelievable that even when the company reached out to local authorities, embassies and other third parties for help they did not seem to contribute to a solution at all».
The Seafarers Union of Russia notes that all crewmembers have the right to qualified medical care, which is also enshrined in the requirements of the MLC. At the same time, throughout the pandemic seafarers have problems with this. In particular, in the summer a member of the crew of the m/v Chem Bulldog applied to the union with the following claim: despite a toothache he could not visit a coastal medical facility for treatment because it was strictly prohibited in the Chinese port. To provide assistance of this kind on board is almost impossible. As a result, the seafarer was repatriated as by that time the period of his stay on board was already more than eleven months, but never received full medical care. This case also demonstrates a real lack of respect for the rights of seafarers. It turns out that with a disease that the world is so afraid of that for many months the borders of most countries are closed and people are urged to practically not leave their homes, it is nevertheless possible to return a crewmember to board where it is extremely difficult to ensure full isolation. This is not to mention the fact that the condition of a seafarer can deteriorate suddenly at sea, where no one can immediately come to his aid. Unfortunately, this is exactly what the life of seafarers looks like today though they have already been repeatedly called to be recognized as key employers.
The source: Nautilus International