Seafarer wellbeing negatively impacted by current geopolitical situation

Challenges to the mental health of seafarers have increased since the beginning of the pandemic and, subsequently, the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The IUMI 2022 Policy Forum Workshop in Chicago focused on the war in Ukraine and its impact on marine and war risk insurance. At the workshop, Gard’s global head of People claims, Lene-Camilla Nordlie, noted the challenges that seafarers faced, not just due to the current geopolitical situation, but also generally due to the stresses and strains of their occupation.

In the case of the current situation in Ukraine, some seafarers are concerned not just about their family and friends, but even whether there will be a home for them to return to. Some crew members wish to end contracts early, while others wish to extend their time aboard. Access to medical treatment may be compromised and, with respect to Russian crew or crew resident in Russian occupied/annexed territories, payment of wages and settlement of disability and death benefits can difficult, due to sanctions. A similar problem can arise for Ukrainians as a result of displacement with respect to crew resident in Ukraine.

Nordlie noted that, for policy year 2021, claims involving people made up 24% of the total number of claims handled in Gard across all the products it offers. While the people claims group handles claims involving passengers, stowaways, other persons onboard or ashore and persons saved at sea, claims by seafarers make up the vast majority of files.

Nordlie said that both Ukraine and Russia have strong seafaring traditions, with about 100,000 Ukrainian seafarers and about 200,000 Russian seafarers sailing today, sometimes on board the same ship.

Nordlie said that, because of the UN’s Black Sea Grain Initiative, many of the blocked bulk ships had now sailed. This was good news for the seafarers and would lessen the looming global food shortages. According to the UN Black Sea Gain Initiative Joint Coordination Centre, from inception in August to September 22nd,144 ships carrying corn, sunflower seed, oil and meal, wheat and other agricultural products had left the ports of Chornomorsk, Odesa and Yuzhny/Pivdennyi. “While this is good news for Marine insurance in that constructive total losses may be thus avoided, we must not forget or understate out obligations to the human rights and the physical and mental well-being of seafarers manning those ships”, Nordlie said.