The Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure on Wednesday acknowledged the efforts and achievements of the Mission to Seafarers charity and its regional director, Andy Bowerman, in supporting seafarers during the pandemic.
The charity, which represents ships' crews worldwide, has provided support in recent years to marine crews who have run into difficulties off the UAE waters.
Most recently, it supported a crew of five men who spent 43 months at sea after their tanker's owner fell into a financial crisis.
The Merchant Tanker Iba split from its anchorage in rough seas and drifted on to a public beach in Umm Al Quwain in January last year. Owed $170,000 collectively, the crew were finally paid and able to return home.
Hessa Al Malek, adviser to the Minister for Maritime Transport Affairs, Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, said the UAE had been pioneer in ensuring the welfare of the seafarers' community.
“The Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure has launched many initiatives that support seafarers, including the Supporting our Blue Army initiative, which aims to improve the quality of our seafarers’ lives while they are within the premises of the UAE,” said Ms Al Malek.
“The initiative protects seafarers’ rights with ship owners and operating companies, as well as helps seafarers overcome their challenges.
“In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UAE has taken a step forward by classifying seafarers as ‘priority workers’ as they have been on the front line since the onset of the pandemic, providing critical services despite challenging circumstances.”
The Mission to Seafarers charity is one of the largest port-based welfare operators in the world, providing services in about 200 ports in 50 countries.
During the height of the pandemic, their services became invaluable to sea workers globally.
Andy Bowerman, regional director for the charity, whose tenure in the role is shortly coming to an end, thanked the ministry for providing support to seafarers and taking care of their affairs.
“Mission to Seafarers really appreciates the co-operation we have received from the ministry, especially during the unprecedented circumstances we faced during the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
“The practices the UAE has adopted and the laws and regulations it has issued, contribute to making it one of the leading countries worldwide in terms of working towards the welfare of seafarers by supporting them and protecting their rights.”
As part of the Supporting our Blue Army initiative, the ministry honoured Mr Bowerman in recognition of his efforts and achievements in supporting seafarers and following up on their needs during his tenure in the UAE.
Ms Malek praised Mr Bowerman for his work in caring for seafarers and providing support to them, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The ministry combines all its initiatives aimed at supporting seafarers and protecting their rights under the Supporting our Blue Army initiative.
It aims to provide a national platform for government and private organisations, as well as local and international NGOs, to collaborate and work towards improving the quality of seafarers’ lives.
Under the initiative, a Cabinet resolution was issued that obliges all UAE-flagged ships and foreign-flagged ships in UAE waters or ports to guarantee the rights of seafarers and fulfil their needs.
An agreement has also been signed with the International Transport Workers' Federation to enhance co-operation in supporting sailors.
This provides material and moral support to seafarers in the UAE — including free medical treatment and Covid-19 vaccines and allowing crew replacements when required.
More than 214,000 seafarers confined to their ships were assisted in the replacement process and returned to their home countries during the pandemic.