Bangladesh to financially help seafarers

The government of Bangladesh releases fund for seafarers amid COVID-19. Credit: Xinhua/PID

The government of Bangladesh has designated a fund to assist seafarers and their family members who face financial crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fund – Seafarers’ Welfare Fund – is estimated at BDT160 million (USD2 million) and was formed in 1996 for the well-being of seafarers.

The concerned government agency, the Directorate of Seamen and Emigration Welfare, has already received applications from nearly a thousand seafarers and their family members who are in dire need of financial assistance to meet their expenses.

The applications are under scrutiny and disbursement of aid will start soon, according to officials.

Nearly a thousand or more Bangladeshi seafarers who could not sign on to vessels for long periods, during or before COVID-19, are facing an immense financial crisis.

The pandemic has put a limit on the movement of people worldwide and halted sign on and sign off from vessels, leaving thousands of seafarers stranded offshore and onshore.

The 24-hour support phone line of International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network, SeafarerHelp, and Sailors’ Society noted that financial concerns have been a major factor for those reaching out for support.

Director of Seamen and Emigration Welfare, Motahar Hosen, told SAS some family members of the seafarers find themselves in an immense financial crisis after failing to work during the pandemic.

“They sought our help to survive,” said Hosen, adding later the government gave permission to extend financial assistance to them. Both officers and ratings have submitted applications seeking financial help, he said.

According to Zakir Hossain Chowdhury, the shipping master of the Government Shipping Office, some 4,000 Bangladeshi seafarers are stuck on vessels abroad, failing to sign off, and unable to return home.

Fearing COVID-19 spread, seafarers are also not allowed to go onshore and are forced to stay on board for months. These seafarers would not be able to return home until the air connectivity is restored.

Many seafarers are also unable to send money home during the pandemic period, thus their family members also facing financial crises.