Crews of cargo ships being denied shore leave for longer periods during coronavirus pandemic

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Though international shipping lanes and Canada’s major ports remain open for business, the COVID-19 pandemic is making life miserable for many seafarers.

Under the latest rules, Canadian crews aboard most Canadian-flagged cargo vessels have agreed not to leave their ships when they arrive at their destinations, which means they can be restricted to their vessels for up to three months at a time.

READ MORE: Approval of prime minister, premiers soars amid coronavirus response: Ipsos poll

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The crews on some foreign-flagged ships, meanwhile, are being told they’ll be stuck on their ships – without shore leave – for up to nine months.

“It’s a real stressful situation,” Jim Given, president of the Seafarers’ International Union of Canada, said in an interview Wednesday.

“That outside contact is being lost for those seafarers. As a maritime community, we’re going to have to figure out how we handle this. Everybody is trying their best, but it’s very difficult.”

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Helen Glenn, manager of the Mission of Seafarers, said her non-profit group is doing its best to help, even though the mission’s building on the Halifax waterfront has been temporarily closed.

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