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All-at-sea sickness
Shipping , Issue 1524
PITY the tens of thousands of stranded crew for whom the ships now anchored off UK shores and around the world have become little more than prison hulks.

Cruise ship passengers, whose plight dominated the news early in the pandemic, are mostly back on dry land. The same cannot be said for the estimated 150,000 seafarers, now with few rights, caught in international waters on ships generally registered in low-regulation jurisdictions.

Many, including around 2,000 British nationals, are marooned on mothballed cruise ships. Still plagued by outbreaks of Covid-19, they now face other serious problems caused by their isolation, including mental ill-health, coping with bereavement or redundancy, and having limited access to specialist healthcare and medicines. Most are from the Philippines, India, Russia and Ukraine; and, according to the church-based Mission to Seafarers, which operates out of 200 ports worldwide, many support 14 or more family members on salaries of £800-£1,600 a month, often for seven-day duties.

Skeleton crews
Several seafarers have been driven to suicide; though so far, none among the estimated 7,000 still afloat in UK waters. The charity has, however, had to secure specialist psychiatric treatment for some. It has also been providing food parcels in India and the Philippines to crewmembers’ families, left without income since the pandemic. On tankers, containers and cargo ships, which bring around 90 percent of the UK’s daily goods, the problems are the same. While all are used to working long offshore contracts, many have now been at sea for more than a year.

The shipping industry has largely identified the skeleton crews needed to keep ships on so-called “warm lay-up” and has been lobbying hard to persuade governments to help repatriate the others. But with the world at different stages of lockdown, and crews falling between various jurisdictions, it has been a struggle.

Andrew Wright, the charity’s secretary-general, told the Eye: “Governments must recognise the vital role seafarers have and ensure they can be repatriated safely. They are key workers, keeping us fuelled and fed, and we must do all we can to ensure their mental and physical wellbeing is taken care of.”

More top stories in the latest issue:

BORDERING INSANITY
‘Light-touch’ control of imports announced by Michael Gove are a recipe for fraud and smuggling – and not helped by an acute shortage of customs agents.

BISHOPS’ MOVE
Unfortunate timing as the Archbishops of Canterbury and York choose the wrong week to issue a rare joint statement on ‘the evil of white supremacy’.

AD NAUSEAM
When it comes to opportunistic advertising in the wake of George Floyd’s shooting in the US, the best advice for Nike is, well… Don’t Do It.

LOSING TRACE
Private outsourcer Serco, hired to supply Matt Hancock’s ‘army of contact tracers’, is relying on a ‘network of subcontractors’ to do the work.

CONFESSIONS OF A CONTACT TRACER…
Why ‘Contact Tracy’, an experienced nurse who signed up to be a contact tracer at the beginning of May, is still twiddling her thumbs on the virtual frontline.

BID OF A GIVEAWAY
Using the Crown Commercial Service, the government is buying urgent coronavirus-related services without putting contracts out to tender.

COUNSEL TAX
Hiring so many management consultants to help out on Covid-19 and Brexit matters means civil servants won’t have the experience to deal with the next crisis or clusterfuck.

NO PAIN, NO GAIN
The General Dental Council is accused of double standards after helping its own staff while lower paid nurses and technicians struggle on universal credit.

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Next issue on sale: 14th July 2020
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Private Eye Issue 1524
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Have yachts
Prince Albert’s Monaco, as told to Craig Brown

Chinese whispers
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