Omicron VS the seafarer
2019 December sounds so long ago! Yes, that was the time we heard about the COVID virus, and which many of us naively believed to be a hype by the media, and the ensuing impact it was having on the general populace in the world, as well as travel between countries.
For India, the real coming to terms was when the nation-wide lockdown was announced on 24th March 2020, and the resultant disarray to our seemingly organized lives.
After much aligning, changing and deviations of regulations, we believed that we were on the right path and things seemed to be somewhat under control by the beginning of 2021. Then the so-called ‘2nd wave’ struck and we witnessed unparalleled mayhem.
What did this mean for the Indian seafarer? From a somewhat routinely harassed lifestyle, he was upgraded to an assured ‘harassed’ lifestyle, one which was sanctioned by the states! The same states which were eloquent (in normal times) about rights of seafarers, clamped down on their movement, including medical care, and tossed their basic rights into the bin!
After much vaccination and persuasion, when the countries which had ‘tightened up’ started to ‘open up’ to the idea of permitting crew changes under controlled conditions, the latest variant (OMICRON) has stuck its head out.
What does it mean for the seafarer and those tasked with movement of seafarers? It simply means that the era of uncertainty with regard to movement of seafarers across borders, from and to ports of embarkation and disembarkation, will once again reign supreme! The countries, in their scramble to protect their populace (rightfully) will target that miniscule population (seafarers) who are engaged in keeping the wheels of global trade moving. The leading nations of the world could come together at short notice and literally bomb a country out of existence, but they do not seem to be able to come together to facilitate the movement of seafarers for joining and be repatriated from their ships! We want the EXIM trade to be unhindered, but who cares for the seafarers who move the goods?
In the days of yore, there was a Dufferin Anthem, a song the cadets on board the erstwhile TS Dufferin knew by heart:
We are on the road; we are on the road to anywhere
With never a heartache, never a care
Got no home, got no friends
Thankful for everything the good Lord sends….
Time has come for all seafarers to memorize this song. There seem to be no friends for them on planet earth!
Source: Aajkaal Daily by Capt Shiv Halbe , https://www.aajkaaldaily.com/english/Omicron-VS-the-seafarer