Representatives of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) boarded the Ever Given in the Suez Canal’s Great Bitter Lake on Sunday for a welfare check of its crew.
The health and welfare check comes as the ship remains at anchor in the Suez Canal under detention by canal authorities over a $916 million compensation claim. The Ever Given has been at anchor in the Great Bitter Lake since the ship was refloated on March 29.
The ITF reports the ship’s crew are in “good spirits”, have plenty of provisions and are up-to-date on pay.
“We are pleased to inform the world that the crew of the Ever Given is in good spirits, and doing well. The crew were pleased to see ITF Egyptian union officials, who greeted them and expressed the solidarity of the global seafaring family,” said ITF Arab World and Iran Network Coordinator Mohamed Arrachedi.
“The crew are understandably sensitive at moment, as they wait to see the what will happen with arguments between authorities and other parties. They are eager to sail, or know that they will be able to go home and see their families if the ship cannot leave Egypt soon. They are relieved to know the ITF is on their side,” said Arrachedi.
The ITF has also reported that no seafarer wages or contract violations were found, and all crew had received their wages for March. The crew also had sufficient food provisions and have been delivered devices for the crew to connect to the internet.
“We have been in contact with the crew and there were no welfare issues raised for the time being. We continue to monitor the situation and the crew know we are available to support where needed, ” said Arrachedi.
The seafarers on board are represented by National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI). The ship is reported to have 25 crew members, although the Suez Canal Authority reported last week that two crew members were allowed to return home for “urgent” personal matters.
“We urge Egyptian authorities to make clear that all of the Ever Given 25 crew will be allowed to leave at the normal conclusion of their contracts,” said NUSI General Secretary Abdulgani Y Serang. “We cannot have a situation where the crew are effectively being held hostage as financial negotiations that do not concern the seafarers continue between parties.”
ITF Seafarers’ Section Chair David Heindel highlighted the plight of seafarers over the past year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“First the pandemic and then the crew change crisis turned seafarers’ lives upside-down, especially when governments brought in blanket travel and border restrictions. Some seafarers have been trapped working on the same ships for more than a year beyond their initial contracts,” said Heindel.
“We should remember that it was seafarers who kept the world running through the worst of the health and economic crises we faced from Covid. Many of those seafarers would rightly feel pretty angry if, after all their sacrifice, their profession is unfairly associated with an event clearly beyond their control,” Heindel added.
“It’s time to treat seafarers as key workers with the respect they deserve – and we can start by getting each and every crew member from the Ever Given home to their families at the conclusion of their respective contracts,” he said.