The world\u2019s foremost transport worker body is welcoming the end to the crisis affecting the MV Ever Given (IMO: 9811000), the cargo vessel that has been blocking the Suez Canal.\r\n\u201cWe welcome news that the Ever Given has been freed and the Suez Canal will soon be unblocked. That\u2019s fantastic for the sake of all the seafarers on this ship and others who have been waiting to transit the Suez Canal,\u201d said Stephen Cotton, the General Secretary of the International Transport Workers\u2019 Federation (ITF).\r\nThe ITF\u2019s union affiliates represent more than a million seafarers and tugboat workers worldwide.\r\n\u201cWe want to acknowledge the tireless efforts of the workers aboard the tug boat and towage vessels, and those performing the critical groundworks essential to resolving this situation,\u201d said Cotton.\r\n\u201cThis operation has shown us how important tugboats are. There will be dozens of ships across the world that are right now beached, stuck or floating without engine power that are being assisted by tugboat and towage workers working \u2018round the clock. They should take pride in how their profession has helped resolve this situation in the world\u2019s busiest waterway. I hope these workers get the recognition they deserve.\u201d\r\n\u201cWe express our solidarity with the seafarers, both on the Ever Given, and on the cargo ships who have been queued on either side of it. Seafarers have been expected to keep the world moving during this pandemic by getting all of us the supplies, food, and medicines we need, and then they have had this major blockage to add to their worries.\u201d\r\nCotton said that if ships were required to round the Cape of Good Hope, circumnavigating the African continent, the route would have added at least 26 days on to the typical cargo vessel\u2019s journey, and more than $800,000 in fuel costs.\r\n\u201cSeafarers have had to deal with a lot in the last year. From being denied shore leave and medical assistance due to closed borders, through to the ongoing crew change crisis: the pandemic has not been kind to seafarers. The last thing they needed was to add weeks to their journeys and time on board.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cRounding the Cape of Good Hope would have been a disaster for shipping companies and seafarers. It\u2019s already difficult to get crews changed as it is, and many companies are resisting due to quarantine charges and the current high cost of flights. I expect the delay already caused by the Even Giver\u2019s plight will translate into pressure put onto the shoulders of seafarers to make up for lost time, and some companies will try deferring crew change to recoup the costs caused by the delay.\u201d\r\nCotton said ITF could confirm the crew of the Panamanian-flagged Ever Given were not yet over-contract, and all were onboard for less than six months.\r\n\r\nDavid Heindel, chair of the ITF Seafarers\u2019 Section, said a full investigation was needed to examine if crew fatigue or other issues had been a factor in the events surrounding the vessel\u2019s stranding, as it had been in other maritime accidents.\r\n\u201cLet\u2019s not rush to judgement until all the facts are laid bare. An open and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding this event should be conducted, drawing on necessary input and expertise from the crew and their unions. Of course, the industry needs to learn any lessons that emerge from this incident,\u201d he said.\r\n\u201cToo often, seafarers are unfairly blamed for incidents at sea. When proper investigations are conducted we are able to stand back and see the systematic factors which drive bad outcomes,\u201d said Heindel.\r\nHeindel said the union federation\u2019s initial belief was that the ship ran aground due to high winds, but there has also been speculation that there may have been an engine failure. Such reports remained unconfirmed.\r\n\u201cMy hope is that this highly-publicised event at the world\u2019s busiest waterway can give everyone an opportunity to see what tremendous sacrifice seafarers make on a daily basis. The crew change crisis is still happening.\u201d\r\n\u201cSeafarers are heroes, and they need our support \u2013 whether they are stuck on the Suez, or whether they are delivering 90 percent of everything at your local port and over contract on their ship,\u201d said Heindel.