COVID-19 and Supply Chain Issues Are Stranding Sailors at Sea

A logistical nightmare gets worse

Container ship
Some cargo ship workers face a logistical conundrum.
Vidar Nordli-Mathisen/Unsplash

The world is currently experiencing massive upheaval in the global supply chain. The world is also experiencing a pandemic. The two are connected in myriad ways — but they’ve also magnified certain aspects of one another, leading to already-difficult situations becoming more challenging for many people.

A new report from Ronald D. White at the Los Angeles Times explores the particular conundrum facing workers on container ships. One interviewee had been stuck on the same ship for upwards of 15 months — far longer than the union-recommended maximum of 11 months annually. Some of that has to do with the supply chain crisis making the lengthy schedules of these vessels even longer.

The other wrinkle in this case comes from COVID-19 regulations. Some crew members boarded their current ships before a vaccine existed. But, as the article explains, the same crew members aren’t allowed off their ships due to their lack of vaccination.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation estimates 300,000 workers are situations comparable to this one: unable to get the vaccines that they’d need to leave their ships. One hopes that some ships might start offering vaccinations on board when docked — something that might help ease the confusing situation experienced by many working on the sea right now.

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