The Masters, Mates & Pilots union (MM&P) has joined forces with five other US maritime unions, to call on the US government to urgently enable crew changes for American mariners, likening their confinement due to Covid-19 restrictions to 'prison ships'.
In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, MM&P President Don Marcus and the presidents of the other unions renewed their calls for the administration to take urgent action to enable crew transfers and reparations.
Ships' captains, officers and crew members have not been able to set foot on dry land in months, their workplaces have become floating prisons and some seafarers are in danger of losing access to life-sustaining medicines, the unions said.
'Scores of US mariners are trapped aboard cargo ships, unable to take leave or return home due to extreme Covid-19 lockdown measures imposed by foreign governments.
'This humanitarian crisis, if not resolved as soon as possible, may threaten the essential supply chain for some 200,000 active duty US military personnel now serving overseas.'
In many cases, they cannot contact their loved ones at home in the US as some vessels lack Internet access.
The May 28 letter, co-signed by the presidents of AMO, MEBA, the MFOW, the SIU and the SUP, also expressed concern that isolation and excessive time serving aboard ship can create increased fatigue and psychological stress, leading to accidents.
'These American men and women need to come home immediately,' the unions said.