Cardinal Czerny highlights issue of shore leave in Sea Sunday message
By Vatican News staff reporter
Cardinal Michael Czerny, the prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, released a message on Thursday to mark Sea Sunday which is observed on 10 July.
On the second Sunday in July each year, Christian communities celebrate this important day, calling to mind the essential work of more than a million seafarers who work on ships transporting goods around the world every day of the year.
Invisible but vital
In his message, Cardinal Czerny highlighted that seafarers are “seen as invisible, but they are there," not only “keeping the world economy moving but also directly impacting upon the daily life of every one of us.”
The Cardinal underlined that they have endured many challenges. He also noted over recent years the maritime world has been hit by a series of crises.
Ukraine and Covid
“Increased demand for goods has led to more ships being held at anchorage for longer periods of time. The war in Ukraine means that ships now face the impossible task of navigating through the mines in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Many vessels have been sunk and human lives have been lost during this unjust and immoral war,” he said.
Cardinal Czerny pointed out that the global pandemic has meant that over 400,000 seafarers have been stuck on board, unable to leave the ship at the end of their contracts and return home to their families.
He also alluded to some shipping companies that “appear to be the only ones who have profited financially from the series of crises which have disrupted the global supply chain."
“It is regrettable, to say the least,” the Cardinal continued, “that companies have only shared a tiny fraction of the exorbitant revenue they have enjoyed with seafarers or spent on improving welfare facilities in ports for the short period of time they are alongside.”
Cardinal Czerny stressed the importance of looking after seafarers’ physical and psychological needs.
“Safe navigation, security, and protection of the marine environment rely on seafarers enjoying good mental health,” he said.
Referencing the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC), the Cardinal said it requires companies to provide decent and clean accommodation, nourishing food, a safe working environment, proper hours of work, and shore leave.”
However, he pointed out that sadly, “the significant gains made since MLC came into force in 2013 have been seriously undermined.”
Speaking about the issue of shore leave, Cardinal Czerny noted that “the ability to leave the vessel and go ashore, if only for a short time, is crucial for seafarers’ wellbeing… They cannot leave the ship, and every day they walk on metal floors and see the same faces. The only way they can share in the freedom we enjoy is to have access to shore leave.”
He also underlined that despite seafarers’ being fully vaccinated and countries lifting restrictions, they are “frequently denied the free movement we enjoy.”
The Cardinal stressed that “the pandemic must no longer be used as an excuse for banning the crew from going ashore. As long as they take the necessary precautions, seafarers have the right to put their feet on dry ground and meet people other than their colleagues on board.”
Added to this, Cardinal Czerny highlighted the discrimination some seafarers face saying, “To add insult to injury, some seafarers are allowed to go ashore if they are the ‘correct nationality.’”
Concluding his message, Cardinal Czerny thanked seafarers for their hard work.
“We pray that they remain strong in the face of difficulties and challenges in life. And we entrust to Mary, Star of the Sea, the commitment and dedication of the chaplains and volunteers around the world who serve them.”