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Stranded and shattered seafarers threaten global supply lines
20 July 2021, 2:03 PM

“I’ve seen grown men cry,” says Captain Tejinder Singh, who hasn’t set foot on dryland in more than seven months and isn’t sure when he’ll go home.

“We are forgotten and taken for granted,” he says of the plight facing tens of thousands of seafarers like him, stranded at sea as the Delta variant of the coronavirus wreaks havoc onshore.

“People don’t know how their supermarkets are stocked up.”

Singh and most of his 20-strong crew have criss-crossed the globe on an exhausting odyssey: from India to the United States then on to China, where they were stuck off the congested coast for weeks waiting to unload cargo. He was speaking to Reuters from the Pacific Ocean as his ship now heads to Australia.

They are among about 100 000 seafarers stranded at sea beyond their regular stints of typically 3-9 months, according to the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), many without even a day’s break on land.

Another 100,v000 are stuck on shore, unable to board the ships they need to earn a living on.

The Delta variant devastating parts of Asia – home to many of the world’s 1.7 million commercial seafarers – has prompted many nations to cut off land access to visiting crews, in some cases even for medical treatment.

Just 2.5% of seafarers – one in every 40 – have been vaccinated, the ICS estimates.

The United Nations describes the situation as a humanitarian crisis at sea and says governments should class seafarers as essential workers.

Given ships transport around 90% of the world’s trade, the deepening crisis also poses a major threat to the supply chains we rely on for everything from oil and iron to food and electronics.

Bulk carrier master Singh, from northern India, is not optimistic of going ashore anytime soon; his last stint at sea lasted 11 months. He said his crew of Indians and Filipinos were living out of cabins measuring about 15ft by 6ft.

“Being at sea for a very long time is tough,” he says, adding that he had heard reports of seafarers killing themselves on other ships.

“The most difficult question to answer is when kids ask, ‘Papa when you are coming home?’,” he said from his vessel, which was recently carrying coal.

India and the Philippines, both reeling from vicious waves of COVID-19, account for more than a third of the world’s commercial seafarers, said Guy Platten, secretary-general of the ICS, which represents over 80% of the world’s merchant fleet.

“We are seriously disturbed that a second global crew change crisis is looming large on the horizon,” he told Reuters, referring to a months-long stretch in 2020 when 200,000seafarers on ships were unable to be relieved.


In a snapshot of the situation, this month almost 9% of merchant sailors have been stuck aboard their ships beyond their contracts’ expiry, up from just over 7% in May, according to data compiled by the Global Maritime Forum non-profit group from10 ship managers together responsible for over 90,000 seafarers.

The maximum allowed contract length is 11 months, as stipulated by a U.N. seafaring convention.

In normal times, around 50,000 seafarers rotate on and50,000 rotate off ships per month on average but the numbers are now a fraction of that, according to industry players, though there are no precise figures.

The new crew crisis stems from restrictions imposed by major maritime nations across Asia including South Korea, Taiwan and China, which are home to many of the world’s busiest container ports.

Requirements range from mandatory testing for crews who come from or have visited certain countries, to outright bans on crew changes and berthing operations.

“Asia really is struggling and the only countries you can go about routine crew changes to some extent are Japan and Singapore,” said Rajesh Unni, chief executive of Synergy Marine Group, a leading ship manager responsible for 14 000 seafarers.

“The issue is that we have one set of people who desperately

want to go home because they have finished their tenure, and another set of people onshore that are desperate to get back on board to earn a living.”


The crisis has led to almost half of commercial sea farers either considering leaving the industry or being unsure whether they would stay or go, according to a survey by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) in March.

This suggests a looming labour crunch that would strain the world’s 50,000-strong merchant shipping fleet and threaten the integrity of global supply chains.

shortage of container ships carrying consumer products and logjams at ports around the world are already rippling through the retail industry, which has seen freight rates spike to record levels, driving up prices for goods.

“You don’t have enough crew anyway. The shipping industry was working on a very lean model,” said Mark O’Neil, CEO of leading ship manager Columbia Shipmanagement and also president of the international association for ship and crew managers.
“But now we have all of these problems and we have a large number of seafarers taken out of that available crewing pool, “he said, adding that the result could be vessels unable to sail.

Stephen Cotton, general secretary of the ITF, said seafarers were being pushed to their physical and mental limits.
“Some in the industry estimate that as many as 25% fewer seafarers are joining vessels than pre-pandemic,” he added. “We have warned that global brands need to be ready for the moment some of these tired and fatigued people finally snap.”


While COVID-19 infections in India have retreated from their peak, countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia are grappling with surging cases and imposing new lockdowns.

“If it gets worse, which it could well do, or if Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Ukraine – other crewing centres – experience the same problem, then the wheels would really come off,” O’Neil added.

The gravity of the assessment was echoed by Esben Poulsson, chairman of the board of the ICS.

“In my 50 years in the maritime industry, the crew change crisis has been unprecedented in the devastating impact it has had on seafarers around the world,” he told his board in June.

Most seafarers come from developing nations that have struggled to secure adequate vaccination supplies, leaving many in the maritime industry-low on the priority list.

Governments with significant access to vaccines have a “moral responsibility” towards seafarers, said the ICS’s Platten.

“They must follow the lead of the U.S. and the Netherlands and vaccinate non-native crews delivering goods to their ports. They must prioritise seafarer vaccination,” he added.

A total of 55 member countries of the U.N. shipping agency, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), have classed seafarers as essential workers, said David Hammond, chief executive of the charitable organization Human Rights at Sea.

The IMO said the latest figures showed the numbers had risen to 60 member countries and two associate members.
This classification would allow seafarers to travel more freely and return to their homes and give them better access to vaccines.

Hammond called on all other nations to follow suit.

“Collectively, the global shipping industry is part of a $14trillion maritime supply chain that cannot seemingly look after its 1.7 million seafarers,” he added.

Mbongeni Ngema hopes for Tsepo Tshola’s posthumous honouring for his contribution to SA music
15 July 2021, 10:14 PM

Writer, lyricist, composer, director, and theatre producer Mbongeni Ngema says he hopes that Tsepo Tshola can be honoured posthumously for the role he played in the South African industry.

The 68-year-old succumbed to COVID-19 complications on Thursday.

Ngema says he and Tsola shared great moments both in South Africa and abroad.

He laments a lost opportunity between them, saying while they have been having talking about a collaboration, they never got on to it.

“We’ve lost a great musician and a son. A beautiful human being to be around,” he says.

Mbongeni Ngema pays tribute to The Village Pope:

One of South Africa’s music legends, Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse, says Tshola’s death has left him shattered.

Mabuse says he’s short of words.

“I don’t even know how to respond to this. Tsepo’s passing has just left me shattered. And in an empty space. I could not even imagine that you could be gone so soon. You sang my friend, you sang for us Tsepo. Ho lokile. Tsamaya hantle moloane wa ka,” he says.

The Village Pope, as he was affectionately known, will be remembered for some of his many hits,  including Ho Lokile and Stop the War.

Tsola’s background

Tshola  was  born in Lesotho in 18 August 1953, however, he also had a South African citizenship.

He grew up in a musical family with both his parents involved in choirs and joined Lesotho Blue Diamonds as a vocalist in 1970. 

He co-founded and co-led Sankomota with late Frank Leepa, which was later disbanded. 

He relocated to London in the 1980s. 

Among his prominent awards  is the Metro FM Lifetime Achievement. His last album was released in March 2016 .

 His popular songs include Ho LokileMbube, You Inspire Me and Ntate.

He lost his wife almost 30 years ago and have never been remarried.

The musical icon had two children. 

Tributes pour in for the legendary jazz musician:

Government prohibits sale of petrol, diesel in containers for consumers
15 July 2021, 8:47 PM

Consumers will no longer be able to buy petrol and diesel in containers after government enacted the prohibition of such sales.

The Fuel Retailers Association has welcomed this decision, saying it has been flagging the sale of fuel in containers as a hazard.

It has given assurance that there are sufficient fuel reserves in the country.

However availability at some service stations, in hot spot areas that were hit by the violent looting, paints a different picture.

Ongoing civil unrest in some regions in South Africa have forced the Durban’s SAPREF refinery to temporarily shutdown.

Moving fuel via road tankers between Durban and Gauteng remains extremely risky, due to closures of the N3 highway.

Fuel Retailers Association CEO, Reggie Sibiya, says panic buying has also contributed to the problem.

The South African Petroleum Industry Association (Sapia) says the industry is monitoring the situation and notes that the safety of people is of the highest priority.

A number of retail service station sites have been reportedly damaged and set alight.

Sapia says operations at some facilities in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Mpumalanga have been suspended until the situation improves.

Collapse of the supply of all goods as a result of lootings:


SA riots will not have significant impact on economy: Fitch
15 July 2021, 7:30 PM

Ratings agency Fitch says the current social riots will not have a significant impact on the local economy.

Speaking to the SABC News , Fitch’s Senior Director, Jan Frederich, says it’s unlikely that the country’s sovereign rating could falling deeper into junk due to the riots that have been largely characterised by the looting of shopping malls.

But he has acknowledged that violence highlight risks to social and political stability and could affect fiscal policy.

“What we assume for now is these protests will be contained in time and will not last. The overall impact on fiscal revenue will be small, in terms of the immediate impact on public finances that’s likely to be well contained not something that we would think of taking a rating action on.”

In May, Fitch maintained a negative outlook of the country’s credit prospects, saying it reflected significant risks to debt stabilisation.

The agency expected the country’s economy to grow by 4.3% in 2021 and 2.5% in 2022 with a boost from commodity prices, while anticipating that tight public finances and electricity shortages will hold back growth.

Counting the cost of looting:


ANC caucus urges South Africans to stand up and stop the country from burning
15 July 2021, 7:07 PM

The African National Congress (ANC) caucus in Parliament has called on South Africans to stand up and stop the country from burning.

The party held an emergency caucus meeting on Thursday of all its Members in Parliament to respond to the violent incidents of the past few days.

Chief Whip, Pemmy Majodina, says MPs will work with communities in their constituencies to ensure that looting and the destruction of property are stopped.

Majodina says the party supports government’s efforts to strengthen its response to the violence.

“Let’s all stand up. Let’s be calm but ensure we don’t allow criminal elements in our communities to destroy the infrastructure that we have. To destroy the jobs that other people have. We are looking forward to work with you as citizens. As members of parliament of the ANC we’ll be operating from the constituencies where we are allocated,” urges Majodina.

ANC officials in Vosloorus to assess the situation, appeal for calm:

Calls for an end to the looting have been made by various quarters in the country, including pastors and the Democracy Our Democracy Campaign.

The campaign briefed the media on Thursday and called for authorities to hold the people who instigated the riots to account for the deaths of the more than 70 South Africans whose lives were lost during the mayhem.

The movement’s Frank Chikane elaborates on their call in the video below:




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