Roughly 400,000 sailors are stuck on merchant vessels because of COVID, and industry leaders are pleading with Jeff Bezos to step in

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Avery Hartmans
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Cargo ship
ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images
  • Roughly 400,000 sailors are stuck on merchant ships across the globe, and industry leaders are now calling on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for help. 

  • The leaders of several major shipping bodies wrote an open letter to Bezos asking him to put pressure on the incoming Biden administration to allow ships to change crews. 

  • A Bloomberg investigation from September found that 20% of the world's sailors are stranded at sea due to port and border restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

  • Sailors told Bloomberg that conditions on their ships are worsening, as many are working without a contract and are unable to access medical care. 

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

There are roughly 400,000 sailors stuck on merchant ships across the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic, and industry leaders are now calling on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to step in. 

The leaders of several major shipping bodies wrote an open letter to Bezos asking him to intercede on behalf of those stranded at sea. As the CEO of one of the world's biggest retailers, which relies on global shipping to move its products, the group said, Bezos should put pressure on the incoming Biden administration to recognize these sailors as "key workers" and allow them to disembark, which they have been unable to do due to the pandemic.

"2020 has been one of the most challenging years for the world in recent times. But we have seen companies like Amazon increasing their profits thanks to a great extent to the actions of seafarers who have kept trade flowing," Esben Poulsson, chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping, a trade group that represents ship owners, said in a press release.

"We now need leaders like Jeff Bezos to raise their voices in support of the many seafarers who, despite being in effect trapped by the crew change crisis, have continued to perform their duties," Poulsson said. 

A spokesperson for Amazon did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment. 

The roundtable also urged for a change in classification for sailors to ensure they are able to receive the coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible, and that a specific program should be implemented to vaccinate them. 

"It is of the utmost importance that seafarers are more widely recognized as key workers and prioritized for vaccinations," Poulsson said. "This is urgently needed to end the nightmare many hundreds of thousands of seafarers have endured over the last year, allowing them to just do their jobs."

Read more: DHL executives detail how the shipping giant will mobilize to help deliver 10 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses

The pandemic has thrown the shipping industry into crisis as countries around the world have tightened port and border restrictions. A Bloomberg investigation published in September found that 20% of the world's seafarers are stranded at sea as a result, some for more than a year. The pandemic has meant that finding new crew members has become more expensive as immigration and air travel rules have changed. 

Bloomberg spoke to dozens of sailors who said conditions aboard their ships are worsening, with workers unable to access medical care or leave their ships, and many working without a contract, meaning they hadn't been paid in months. 

Andrew Kinsey, a senior marine risk consultant at Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, told Bloomberg that it's "the most dire situation with vessels and crew that I've seen in many decades." 

Read the original article on Business Insider