South Korean seafaring unions oppose tighter COVID-19 measures

Busan port. Credit: Jim Wilson

South Korean seafaring unions have raised objections to the South Korean government’s tightened quarantine measures for all seafarers arriving from overseas, arguing that South Korean seafarers have been unfairly penalised.

The Federation of Korean Seafarers’ Unions (FKSU) made its views known at the 3 July meeting held between representatives of local maritime organisations at the Busan Regional Office of Oceans and Fisheries to discuss the enhanced quarantine measures.

The authorities decided that more stringent measures are needed after the COVID-19 outbreaks on two Russian reefer ships, Ice Stream and Ice Crystal, upon arrival in Busan port on 21 June. South Korea is currently experiencing a serious second COVID-19 wave and the new measures took effect on 6 July.

FKSU, represented by 10 members at the meeting, expressed its dissatisfaction with the new quarantine measures to Busan Port Authority’s chief information officer Park Kyung-cheol. The union said that South Korean seafarers had become collateral damage as a result of the incidents on the Russian ships.

Korea Special Seafarers’ Union (KSSU) president Park Seong-yong accused the government of implementing the new quarantine measures unilaterally, without consulting the seafarers. He said that a concrete alternative should be proposed.

A KSSU official told SAS, “Until now, there is no South Korean seafarer that has contracted COVID-19, but the Russian sailor’s infection inflicted damage on all other seafarers. Seafarers are entitled to disembark from the vessels after completing their employment contracts, but obliging them to be quarantined on the ship is only extending their employment.”