Seafarers around the world are facing a humanitarian and safety crisis.

Hundreds of thousands of maritime workers have been left 'stranded' at sea, unable to dock in ports or return home due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Forbidden to leave their ships, these seafarers have faced months of uncertainty, isolation and hardship.

Cezar Gabriel was one of them. The chief engineer and photographer spent an additional three months at sea last year after his ship was unable to dock in Brazil. Listen to his story below.

90 per cent of world trade is transported by sea. Many of the things we take for granted would not be possible without the work of seafarers, yet their contribution during the pandemic is rarely acknowledged.

The National Maritime Museum wants to change that.

We are partnering with two leading maritime welfare organisations, the ITF Seafarers’ Trust and Mission to Seafarers, to record the experiences of seafarers during the coronavirus pandemic.

This oral history project will enter the Museum collection as a permanent record of the challenges that seafarers have faced throughout the pandemic. Their testimony will ensure that the voices of COVID-19's 'forgotten keyworkers' are heard.

"Seafarers continue to be deeply impacted by the pandemic," says Laura Boon, the Lloyd’s Register Foundation Public Curator of Contemporary Maritime at Royal Museums Greenwich. "It is vital that we capture their experiences now – both to raise awareness and act as a record for the future."

In photos: life at sea during COVID-19

Image
A man climbs down a hatch on board an oil tanker in heavy protection equipment, including a gas mask and visor

The Neptune Declaration

More than 700 organisations and companies have signed the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing, urging governments and international bodies to find a solution to the current crisis.

Now the National Maritime Museum has pledged to add its name to the declaration. Join us in our support of the world’s seafarers.

Exposure: Lives at Sea

Together the National Maritime Museum and Cutty Sark are dedicated to telling stories of the sea and seafarers.

But as the coronavirus crisis has shown, it is all too easy to feel disconnected from the people living and working at sea today.

A black and white photo of an oil worker. She wears glasses and overalls, and stands looking at the camera in front of rig pipes
Irene Lopez Rodriguez, Data Engineer Mud Logger (© Peter Iain Campbell, Exposure: Lives at Sea)

Global shipping, marine science, fishing, polar research – these industries and endeavours are vital, yet their work often remains out of sight or undervalued.

The National Maritime Museum's new photography exhibition, Exposure: Lives at Sea, is just one way we hope to explore and document lives at sea today.

A diver heads swims vertically downwards through shining blue sea, holding a harpoon out in front

See the world through a seafarer's lens

Visit Exposure: Lives at Sea when the National Maritime Museum reopens later this year

International Day of the Seafarer

Royal Museums Greenwich is also supporting Ince with the release of a charity single on the International Day of the Seafarer, Friday 25 June 2021.

The cover of Rod Stewart's 'Sailing' will be recorded by seafarers and the wider maritime community across the world, raising money for Stella Maris, Sailors’ Society, Seafarers UK and the Mission to Seafarers to provide ongoing support, including access to vaccines, for those stranded at sea during the pandemic. From Thursday 18 March, seafarers who are interested in being involved in this project can get in touch at sfs@incegd.com.  

Main image: Ama Namin by Neil Patrick M. Sison - courtesy of Still At Sea, the ITF Seafarers’ Trust photography competition