Precariousness and vulnerability: Seafarers in the COVID-19 pandemic

Desai Shan, Cory Ochs, Sriram Rajagopal, Hugo Andres Rojas Aldieri, Pengfei Zhang

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The COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected the world and work in particular, but its effects on the labor market were not evenly distributed. Seafarers, who are essential workers engaging in international maritime transport, encountered exacerbated challenges to labor conditions at sea during the pandemic. Notably, the inability to conduct crew changes violated their right to rest, increasing the risk of fatigue-related safety accidents at sea. Additionally, the precarious nature of maritime employment relationships delayed seafarers waiting to enlist on the vessels, creating extended financial hardship ashore. Socio-legal analysis revealed how the pandemic, related public health measures and precarious employment heightened the vulnerability of seafarers during the pandemic. Applying the Pressure, Disorganization and Regulatory Failure model and supported by qualitative data collected through a policy review, media coverage analysis and semi-structured interviews, we identified how seafarers’ health and safety rights were significantly compromised during the pandemic. Even though various initiatives were raised by international governmental and non-governmental organizations to address the “humanitarian crisis” at sea, maritime labor regulatory failures were not effectively addressed throughout the multiple waves of the pandemic.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAsian and Pacific Migration Journal
Early online date8 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 May 2024

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