Seafarer Interview: 308 Days Onboard with James Foong
We invite seafarers to share their stories in our new live interview series. We hope that these interviews will help spread public awareness around seafarers’ wellbeing and the overall humanitarian crew change crisis in the maritime industry.
The world relies on seafarers who transport more than 80% of trade by volume, including vital food and medical goods. According to IMO, the very nature of international shipping makes it necessary for seafarers to travel by plane to and from ships every month, as their ports of departure or arrival might be thousands of kilometres away from their homes. Many are flown to their departure ports to embark on ships where they live and work for several weeks or months at a time. Once they reach their destination, they often need to be repatriated by aircraft. However, COVID-related restrictions and closures have hampered this process.
Interview with James Foong
On the 5th of November, we were honoured to talk to James Foong, who spent 308 days onboard a vessel and finally disembarked on the 9th of October. In this interview, he shared his experience and view on seafarers’ challenges and shared tips on staying mentally strong while at sea. James Foong is a 32 years old Malaysian seafarer with 15 years of working experience in the maritime field. He passed his Master Class 1 from New Zealand Maritime School and currently a final year MBA student in Shipping & Logistics from Middlesex University London.
In September, IMO announced that some seafarers have now been on board their ships for more than 17 months, exceeding the 11-months limit set out in the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). Besides being a very challenging profession in its very nature, this year proved extremely hard for seafarers considering the adverse circumstances brought by the COVID-19 world pandemic. According to the latest statistics published by ISWAN’s 24/7 helpline SeafarerHelp, seafarers’ top issues include financial difficulties (due to the pandemic), repatriation issues, mental and physical health concerns, unpaid wages, and bullying. Moreover, the latest Happiness Index report by The Mission to Seafarers indicates the continuing decline of happiness at sea, mainly because of seafarers’ inability to sign off and return home on time.