By Chevanev A.Y Charles
The Covid-19 pandemic has proven to be disastrous in the lives of many seafarers everywhere. Hundreds of thousands of these essential maritime workers have faced unemployment, strained working conditions, extended contracts and minimal mental health support. SVG seafarers are among those who have been gravely affected. After seafarers in SVG were brought back from abroad, many have not been working for several months. Fortunately, some have businesses in SVG to sustain themselves and their families but the vast majority are under significant financial stress and cannot support their loved ones.
The cruise industry is still struggling to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic but it is quite clear that seafarers will always be needed at sea. After meeting with countless seafarers at home and abroad, and learning of their varied experiences, SVG Seafarers Group (SVGSG) has decided to waive the membership fee, US$250.00, for Vincentian seafarers. The standard cost of membership is US$250.00 per year but Vincentian Seafarers who join will have free membership up until March 2022.
SVG Seafarers Group is a new association and the Group wants seafarers to know that they are seen and wish to offer their support. Since so many seafarers are struggling financially at this time, waiving the membership fee for one year eliminates at least one worry and brings significant value to every Vincentian seafarer. SVGSG wants seafarers to know that they are here to help during this challenging time. They are encouraged to become a part of the Association. Their views, input and hands-on perspectives are welcome.
The most useful element of the Seafarers Group is the legal services it provides. Members who are reemployed benefit from having legal coverage while abroad. If they are injured or face sexual harassment on a cruise vessel, SVG Seafarers Group has affiliates in the United States to consult with them confidentially and help secure fair compensation. These affiliates work on a contingency or “no win no fee” basis meaning that the seafarer does not have to pay any upfront costs until settlement. They can consult confidentially to know the strengths and weaknesses of their case.
To access benefits, seafarers confirm nationality by either a Vincentian passport or Seaman’s Book acquired from the Maritime Administration at the Upper Cruise Ship Terminal in Kingstown.
Seafarers who join also benefit from:
• 25% off legal fees (applies to any legal matter even if it is not maritime- related through SVG Seafarers Group – from sending Cease and Desist “lawyer” Letters to the sale and purchase of land);
• Free legal consultations on maritime legal issues including unpaid
wages disputes, personal injury and sexual harassment matters;
• Significantly reduced cost of notarization of documents; and
• Recommendations to our approved recruitment agencies.
If a seafarer or their immediate family has legal issues while he or she is away from home, they benefit from free legal consultations over the phone. Legal fees are offered at a discounted rate and in some cases can save the seafarer thousands in legal representation & support fees. These include legal matters such as divorce, sale and purchase of land, estate planning and administration, etc.
To date, SVG Seafarers Group has already assisted non-nationals from Grenada, India, Turkey and Romania who have benefitted from legal advice as well as the Association working with the Flag State of the vessel and Port State to settle disputes, detain ships, write letters and instruct local lawyers in those jurisdictions to act on their behalf.
SVG Seafarers Group is open to non-nationals who may join the Association on payment of membership fees.
Seafarers can join by either WhatsApp +1784 528 5580, emailing [email protected] or visiting the new website: www.svgseafarers.com and selecting the “Join SVG Seafarers” option from the menu.
SVG Seafarers Group is one of the first seafarer associations in the region to offer primarily legal services. The services will grow as it is clear that Association intends to be responsive to the needs and perspectives of its members. Although the high seas have less activity because of the impact of COVID-19, seafarers are encouraged to weather the storm and remember that smooth seas have never made a skilled sailor.
Chevanev A.Y Charles is a lawyer specialising in International Maritime Law based in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the Director of SVG Seafarers Group