French unions seek urgent repatriation of crews

15 April 2020

Six French maritime unions have expressed concern at the consequences of the coronavirus crisis on the health and wellbeing of crews languishing on ships blocked abroad.

The CFDT, CGT seafarers, Fomm-CGT officers, FO, CFE-CGC officers and CFTC unions, have set up a joint union committee to campaign for government action to seek rapid solutions to all situations of distress, while ensuring that ship operators do not pressure seafarers who seek to take up offers of assistance.

The unions want the government to release funds to repatriate hundreds of French officers and seafarers stranded on French ships.

The unions expressed concern that the maritime sector is particularly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is having a serious impact on the health and wellbeing of crews.

The unions expressed their full support to the men and women seafarers working onboard ships, most of whom have little prospect of being able to return to their families and who are concerned that they will be isolated abroad in cases of inadequate medical facilities on board.

They want the French government to establish a list of maritime activities that are essential to the nation. This would be done in order to prioritise all efforts to relieve overworked and exhausted crews, organise repatriations and establish minimum service plans in French ports.

This would help to keep trade flowing as coronavirus lockdown shuts an increasing number of gateways throughout the world.

Jean-Philippe Chateil, general secretary of the Fomm-CGT officers, said the government must find rapid solutions for several hundred French seafarers working in the offshore sector and oceangoing fishing fleets off West Africa, 'irrespective of cost'.

The joint union committee is concerned for crew transfers in the Asia-Pacific region and the United States, which it described as compromised.

Among other demands, the unions are asking for coronavirus tests to be more widespread, and a ban on crew quarantining in hotel rooms.

Nautilus members who are experiencing difficulties related to the coronavirus outbreak are advised to contact their industrial organiser for assistance. In an emergency members can also contact the Nautilus 24/7 helpline.

More help and our coronavirus resource hub can be found on our Assistance page.