The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy, member of the Coalition of Catholic Organizations against Human Trafficking (CCOAHT), is proud to once again join the CCOAHT’s Annual Campaign that begins during Lent to raise Catholic awareness of forced labor in the fishing industry. Due to the global pandemic, a new humanitarian crisis has emerged that is severely impacting all men and women who work at sea. Thus in 2021, CCOAHT – together with Stella Maris and the Apostleship of the Sea of the United States of America (AOS-USA) – are urging Catholics and all people of good will to pay witness to the life of the seafarer and leverage their voices as community members and consumers to uplift the safety and well-being of one of the world’s most invisible groups of essential workers.
Seafarers and international shipping serve a critical role in maintaining global supply chains. This includes 90% of all goods, inclusive of medical supplies, food and energy. Pope Francis has stressed that, “without the people of the sea, many parts of the world would starve.” Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, these essential workers continue to transport items essential for our survival.
However, COVID-19 has presented significant challenges on the global shipping industry to effect crew change and repatriate seafarers, having an adverse impact on seafarers’ rights, including fundamental principles and rights at work. It has been estimated that hundreds of thousands of seafarers presently require immediate repatriation as they are beyond their original tours of duty, in some cases for more than 17 consecutive months and often without access to shore-based leave and/or medical treatment.
Intersections between the Crew Change Crisis and Labor Trafficking
Human traffickers often prey on people who are experiencing vulnerabilities as they are easier to exploit. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and current maritime labor issues, seafarers are placed in a vulnerable position that presents risks of labor exploitation, which at times rise to the level of labor trafficking. For example, in one report, approximately half of seafarers who were interviewed did not have current work contracts and some had not been paid in months.
During Lent and through June 25, 2021, the International Day of the Seafarer, please join us as we elevate the visibility of these seafarers’ plight and call for an end to the crew change crisis through education, prayer and advocacy.
Help spread the word to family, friends, and the community.
Educate: Educate others on the importance that seafarers play in our lives and the global economy as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their well-being. Resources and social media shareables are available below.
Pray: Pray for the safety and well-being of seafarers, fishers, and their families.
Founded by the Catholic Church, Stella Maris is the largest global maritime ministry serving seafarers, fishers, and family members in the world. In the United States, Stella Maris is present in 53 maritime ports in 26 states and in 48 dioceses. Port chaplains and lay volunteers minister to seafarers by offering pastoral care, friendship, transportation to purchase basic needs, internet connection/phone cards to communicate with family members, and more. In addition to offering welcome and hospitality on ship visits, Stella Maris staff assists seafarers in distress, whether due to unsafe/exploitative working conditions or long periods of isolation onboard the vessel.
Apostleship of the Sea of the United States of America (AOS-USA)
AOS-USA is the official professional association of the Catholic Port Chaplains, Mariners, and Cruise Ship Priests Program with 500 priests from around the world serving onboard over 650 cruises each year. During the pandemic, AOS-USA and Stella Maris chaplains and volunteers have worked tirelessly to find ways to minister despite seafarers’ inability to disembark their vessels at port. Many are offering “virtual chaplaincy” to lend a listening ear via email or Facebook. Others are running errands for seafarers in need of basic necessities such as cleaning wipes and fresh water. Still others are preparing care packages for crew delivered with the assistance of shipping agents. AOS-USA has also provided pastoral and support care for cruise personnel online and via phone, as well as access to the Holy Mass.
International Cooperation to Address Challenges Faced by Seafarers as a Result of the COVID-19 Pandemic to Support Global Supply Chains
United Nations G.A. Res. A/75/L.37, International cooperation to address challenges faced by seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to support global supply chains (adopted by United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 1, 2020).
Resolution Concerning Maritime Labour Issues and the COVID-19 Pandemic
International Labour Organization, GB.340/Resolution (Rev.2), Resolution concerning maritime labour issues and the COVID-19 pandemic (adopted by Governing Body of the International Labour Office on Dec. 8, 2020).
Recommended Action to Facilitate Ship Crew Change, Access to Medical Care and Seafarer Travel during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Maritime Safety Committee of the International Maritime Organization, Resolution MSC.473(ES.2), Recommended action to facilitate ship crew change, access to medical care and seafarer travel during the COVID-19 Pandemic (adopted by Maritime Safety Committee on Sept. 21, 2020).