Skip to main content

Calls for clarity on Russian ships ban in UK ports as maritime charities voice concern for seafarer welfare

4 March 2022

The Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB) has called for more clarity on how seafarers will be affected by Russian ships being banned from entering UK ports.

The call from MNWB chief executive Stuart Rivers came as the UK shut its borders to Russian ships as part of the 'unprecedented' package of sanctions it is developing with international allies in response to the Russia-Ukraine war. UK transport secretary Grant Shapps said he had written to all UK ports insisting they deny access to any ship which they have reason to believe is linked to Russia. This includes ships owned, controlled, chartered, or operated by any person connected with Russia or operated by designated persons.

Mr Rivers said 'We strongly urge frontline welfare providers to facilitate virtual contact for seafarers who are worried about family back home.'

He said the MNWB recognised that the UK government is using sanctions in its response to Russia's invasion over Ukraine but added: 'We need clarity on how these rules will affect seafarers who are on or about to board Russian ships which had planned to dock in UK ports.

'Many seafarers on these vessels won't necessarily be Russian but from a multitude of nationalities who could face issues over access to provisions, water, medical care and repatriation.'

MNWB said there are around 1.9m seafarers across the world, and hundreds in merchant shipping have already been affected by this war. 'Many find themselves in limbo and we strongly urge frontline welfare providers to facilitate virtual contact for seafarers who are worried about family back home,' said Mr Rivers. 'But the sooner we have clarification from UK government on how this ban will work in practice - to ensure seafarers are protected – the better.'

A recent Nautilus Federation statement has also recognised that 'ships' crews often consist of seafarers from around the world – including Ukrainian and Russian citizens'. The statement called on shipowners to 'encourage safe onboard working conditions amongst multinational crews'.

Another maritime charity with one of the largest global ship visiting networks, Stella Maris, also urged 'all governments to ensure the safety of all seafarers caught up in this crisis, their entitlement to adequate shore leave and their access to our welfare services.'

Stella Maris international director Fr Bruno Ciceri said: 'Stella Maris chaplains around the world will redouble our efforts to support all seafarers affected by this crisis. We fully support the recent call from Kitack Lim, International Maritime Organization Secretary General, that innocent ships, seafarers and port workers engaged in legitimate trade should not be adversely impacted by this growing crisis. Shipping, particularly seafarers, cannot be collateral victims in a larger political and military crisis – they must be safe and secure.'

Nautilus members are also reminded they can access assistance 24 hours a day 7 days per week via the Nautilus24/7 emergency helpline: