Due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions, around 400,000 seafarers worldwide have been left stranded on ships, unable to disembark or carry out crew changes.

The personal costs have been immense. Some workers have missed the birth of their children, while others have been unable to say goodbye to dying parents.

To raise awareness of the seafarers’ plight, the International Transport Workers’ Federation Seafarers’ Trust launched a photography competition, 'Still at Sea' in August 2020, which invited serving seafarers to document their lives at sea during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here, we share some of their images and stories.

A seafarer behind a grill stares out to sea

The Prisoner of COVID-19

By Anoop Kumar Vaswani

"A tired and drained out seaman after 10 months of long stay on ship. A prisoner of own destiny. Courtesy Pandemic. Unable to go ashore. Hoping to get sign off and go home some lucky day."

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A woman takes a picture of a FaceTime call with her son

Single Mother on Board

By Ruflyn Balili

"It was his 4th birthday and again, I wasn't there to celebrate with him. Luckily I asked my supervisor if I can go late just to spend time with him through Zoom. Being far from my son is a big sacrifice for me as a mother but I need to work hard for him and for my family too."

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A seafarer wearing a mask holds his hands in prayer

Ama Namin

By Neil Patrick M. Sison

"Months after the Covid-19 outbreak, hundreds of thousands of seafarers are still onboard their respective vessels with their expired contracts and deteriorating physical and mental health."

A sailor on board holds his hand out the porthole to reach for the shore and buildings

Confined

By Vaishnav Vijayakumar

"For seafarers who have been holed up on same vessels for months, the shore leave comes as a much needed break. But amidst this pandemic the right to shore leave for seafarers was denied in most of the ports all over the world."

A seafarer clasps his hands in prayer. His face is in shadow, but he is wearing a mask as part of coronavirus safety measures

Crisis at sea

Learn about the humanitarian and safety crisis that's affecting seafarers – and how we're making sure their voices are heard
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A masked seafarer on board is on the phone

Frustration

By Capt. Angelo U Panganiban

"With prolonged crew contracts, never ending cancellations of flights home, many seafarers find it difficult, if not impossible, to strike a healthy balance between their work lives onboard and family lives causing deep emotional frustrations."

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A ship's captain stares out at the sea in front of the boat

The Watch Continues

By Kenneth Guilaran

"Despite this pandemic, seafarers around the world still continue to sail and keep the world moving. Lands and nations have been locked down, but the seas are open, and so our watch continues."

A seafarer on deck looks out to sea

Optimism

By Warren Quejado

"Sometimes I cannot help but compare my life onboard to a prisoner, and that feeling was more emphasized because of the state of the world we’re in. But instead of drowning myself in all the negativity, I choose to stay positive and hope that when this pandemic ends, perhaps the world will be a better place – and we can all smile at each other again."

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Group of sailors smile together on board ship

The Cure

By Neil Patrick M. Sison

"No single virus can stop a team of individuals who share smiles and laughs over a cup of coffee."

All images courtesy of Still At Sea, the ITF Seafarers’ Trust photography competition

Main image: Optimism by Warren Quejado