Land ahoy: Shore leave at last for Danish sailors stranded by pandemic

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark will allow merchant sailors stranded on the high seas since the outbreak of the coronavirus to come ashore and be reunited with their friends and families, the Business Ministry said on Monday.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, 200,000 seafarers have been stranded on merchant ships, some for more than a year, because travel restrictions have made it almost impossible to rotate crews.

“While many Danes have used the corona crisis to spend more time with the family, many Danish sailors have had to do without family and friends for much longer than usual,” Business Minister Simon Kollerup said.

Sailors will be granted visas to enter or travel through Denmark in controlled settings, the ministry said, to allow them to embark or disembark ships in Denmark or neighbouring countries.

The U.N. International Maritime Organization (IMO) has called the situation a “humanitarian crisis” and maritime welfare charities had warned of an increase in suicides at sea.

Upon landing in Denmark, home to the world’s biggest container shipping group, Maersk, seafarers will be isolated in hotels and airports will establish special transit areas to avoid contact with other people, the ministry said.

Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard; Editing by Nick Macfie