This year, the children of Bangladeshi seafarers will get an increased amount from the Seaman’s Education Trust Fund, as the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated their parents’ economic conditions.
Recently, the fund authority has invited applications from the children of seafarers who need money to continue their studies.
Students from grade 8 to post-graduation level, whose parents have already completed 24 months of voyage in oceangoing vessels, unable to bear expenses, on retirement, or have died, are eligible for the fund.
Jasim Uddin Patwary, secretary of the trust fund, told SAS that each applicant receives between USD100 and USD150 every year to support their educational expenses.
He said many seafarers are stranded for months at home because of the pandemic, which has made them financially weak. Many even cannot bear their daily expenses in the absence of a job, triggered by the halt of crew change in most of the countries fearing further virus spread.
Last year, some 55 students were given financial aid to help fund their education, he said.
“We will take into consideration the impacts of COVID-19 situations and this year may increase the amount based on fund availability and the number of applicants,” said Patwary.
According to him, two fixed deposit receipts, one amounting USD35,000 and another USD59,000, are kept in the bank from which the authority gets about USD5,000 of interest annually. The financial aid is given to the students from the earnings, he said.
Patwary said the Directorate of Seamen and Emigration Welfare is also helping crew members who are struggling to meet their expenses during the pandemic period.
On 5 November 1961, British cargo vessel Clan Keith broke into two pieces off the coast of Tunisia where 51 seafarers from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) died. After paying compensation to the heirs of those killed, the vessel operator, Clan Line Steamers Ltd, also paid GBP10,000 (USD13,000) to help subsidise the children’s education.
According to the Government Shipping Office, Bangladesh had a total of 4,491 registered seafarers at the end of June 2020. Of them, 774 were on board national flag carrier vessels while 1,082 were on foreign vessels.
The remaining seafarers are waiting for jobs as crew hiring has gained pace, after limited-scale air connectivity was restored by some operators.