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A Russian trawler sank in the Barents Sea in icing conditions and 17 crewmembers are now missing. Russian media suspect that the cause of the sinking is heavy ice buildup.

On Monday, December 28, Russian emergency services received notice that the trawler Onega sank suddenly in the Barents Sea off Novaya Zemlya.

According to local media, the conditions in the area at the time of the sinking include temperatures of about -20 degrees Fahrenheit and waves of about 13 feet in height.

In light of the incident, multiple response vessels were dispatched to locate survivors, including other fishing vessels belonging to the owner of the Onega.

Another nearby fishing vessel were able to locate and rescue two survivors. However, the remaining 17 are not expected to be found alive in the extreme cold. Factors complicating the search include rough surface conditions and the 24-hour darkness of the polar night.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Emergency Situations reported to TASS that "According to the preliminary data, there are no survivors apart from two rescued sailors. The frozen vessel sank instantly during a storm, leaving practically no chance for anyone to be saved in the freezing waters."

Currently, an investigation is taking place to understand the circumstances of the casualty, including an inquiry into whether any criminal violations of maritime safety regulations may have occurred.

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3 Lebanese seafarers that had been kidnapped by Nigerian Pirates in late November have now been released, as the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.

The 3 seafarers were kidnapped by Nigerian Pirates while their cargo ship was sailing through the Nigerian waters.

After the incident, the pirates had demanded $1.3 million to release the crew. However, it is unclear if the pirates released the crew after receiving the ransom.

The Nigerian Ambassador, Houssam Diab informed that the men will soon return to Lebanon, when departure procedures are completed.

The seafarers are good in their health.

Earlier Lebanese media had reported that the Ambassador briefed Charbel Wahba, the Lebanese Foreign Minister of the caretaker government, that pirates have released the Milano 1 cargo ship crew.

The Lebanese owner of the ship Ahmad Al-Kout also informed that 10 crew members have been released.

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The COVID-19 crisis has posed many challenges to the industry stakeholders across the globe, especially to seafarers who are sailing with the ships extending their contracts due to crew change issues as well as to those who stay at their homes and cannot join vessels, facing financial difficulties. A lot of parties are urging governments to recognize seafarers as key workers. But above all, industry needs to bear in mind that seafarers are our family and cooperate effectively with respect to crew welfare and wellbeing. These are very important issues nowadays which the COVID-19 pandemic actually brought forward.

‘’Through this pandemic, we confirmed that shipping industry reflects better than other industries, it is stronger. Now we have to deal more with welfare and wellbeing’’ Capt. Costas Karavassilis, UK P&I Club, Senior Loss Prevention Executive commented.

Crew challenges at a glance

The maritime industry depends heavily on seafarers, who are the human element in shipping. Human error disguises a variety of underlying problems such as fatigue, poor mental health, stress and other issues, noted Capt. Costas Karavassilis, UK P&I Club, briefly referred to additional crew challenges for consideration:

  • As per latest Allianz Safety and Shipping Review 75 to 96% of incident occurring at sea are attributed directly to human error.
  • The latest Seafarers Happiness Index has fallen by 6.89% since Q3, which is the lowest in 2020 and most probably due to COVID-19 pandemic.
  • An alarming trend found recently was that racism and onboard bullying have been increased.
  • The happiest crew members are the oldest crewmembers who presumably are accustomed to the harsh working conditions onboard. The least happy are those between 35-45 years old.
  • Shore leave is another challenging issue; since there is a lack of qualified seafarers worldwide and people do not have time to take a proper long leave and be able to rest both physically and mentally. Also due to COVID-19 restrictions, shore leave is impossible in many jurisdictions. All these make seafarers feeling trapped onboard and stress levels to become high.
  • seafarers’ suicide is an alarming trend; seafaring is considered as the second more dangerous occupation when it comes to suicide.
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A strong storm near Vietnam placed two Chinese-owned ships in distress. This prompted the Vietnamese Coast Guard and other vessels in the area to respond.

According to information, the Marshall Island flagged chemical carrier Chem Sinyoo reportedly blacked out on December 21 during the storm about 100 nautical miles Vietnam. The ship was heading to Shanghai. The attempted to repair the ship, but their task was very difficult as their ship was hit by several large waves.

As a result, the captain requested medical assistance from the Vietnamese authorities, reporting that one mechanic in the engine room, had lost his life, while four other crew members were badly injured.