Many seafarers had to keep working during hard lockdown, but at what cost?

SAMSASeafarers kept goods moving during the darkest days of the global Coronavirus pandemic, moving close to 90% of the world’s cargo including critical medicine, medical equipment and food supply. Many experienced hardships and delays due to delays or port lockdowns, forced to spend lengthy stints away from friends and family.

Now a new study led by the University of KwaZulu-Natal will try to determine the Covid-19 impact on South Africa’s seafarer community, looking specifically at how the pandemic has affected work-life balance, and on mental and physical well-being.  The study has the backing of the South African Maritime Safety Authority which is making its digital platforms available to allow seafarers to participate in an online survey. Seafarers will be asked to answer questions about their experience to date during the pandemic.

UKZN Professor Shaun Ruggunan said the study results would highlight the importance of seafarers to the national and global economy “and bring greater attention to their work and challenges during the pandemic.”

“The results will be shared and potentially drive or inform policies of employee well-being for SA seafarers. The survey will benefit both employers, seafarers, agencies and seafarer labour market institutions’,” Ruggunan said in a statement.

SAMSA’s Sibusiso Rantsoabe expressed his support for the study; “SAMSA was approached by UKZN for support on the study on the impact of covid-19 on seafarer welfare,” Rantsoabe said. “SAMSA, having considered the aim and content of the study, fully supports this study. UKZN has committed to sharing the results with SAMSA which will provide the Authority with much needed information.”

“It is very important that SAMSA gets a full picture of what is/was faced by seafarers during this difficult period. The results will assist SAMSA as we continue to advance the interest of seafarers in various forums within government. The study will also provide information that will help shape the Authority’s welfare offering. All seafarers are encouraged to complete the survey as it will help SAMSA better understand the impact of Covid-19 on seafarers,” Rantsoabe said.

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