Giving evidence to the house of commons transport select committee, Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson spoke of the 'horrendous situation' facing seafarers as a result of the ongoing crew change crisis.
Responding to a question from SNP MP Gavin Newlands, Mr Dickinson told committee members that: 'The issues are escalating of suicides, of fights and brawls on board and of mental health deteriorating. Social media and news media channels are awash with horrendous stories about what is happening right now.'
The exchange took place in an oral evidence session as part of the committee's ongoing inquiry into the implications for transport of the coronavirus pandemic. During the session, the committee also heard from RMT national secretary Darren Procter and several witnesses from the Department for Transport, including new maritime minister Robert Courts MP.
The committee touched upon several other topics during the session, including the UK's government's approach to the pandemic with respect to maritime. Committee chair Huw Merriman MP asked how successful the government has been in supporting the maritime sector through the pandemic.
Responding, Mr Dickinson paid tribute to the work of outgoing minister, Kelly Tolhurst MP for her engagement with the sector and 'for making clear very early on that seafarers were key workers.' He credited the government for taking an international lead on resolving the crisis and said: 'I think you have to put some credit on the UK initiative leading to the issue now being on the agenda of the United Nations. The Secretary General and his team have seized this issue and are pushing this issue through to conferences that are taking place later this month.'
However, he was more critical of the approach towards income and job protection, with the unique employment status of seafarers disqualifying them from support under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS). He referenced a Nautilus survey of members, which revealed that up to 11,000 seafarers were at risk of missing out on the financial support.