A WIRRAL charity is demanding urgent action for seafarers on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.

Liverpool Seafarers Centre - which is based in Eastham and Crosby charity - made its plea as the world prepares to mark Day of the Seafarer 2020, celebrating its 10th anniversary tomorrow.

The centre is urging countries like India and the Philippines to listen to the demands of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to repatriate seafarers stranded on ships indefinitely during the COVID-19 crisis.

The IMO estimates that from mid-June, as many as 300,000 seafarers each month will require international flights to enable crew changeovers.

About half of them will need to be repatriated home by aircraft while the other half will join ships. Additionally, around 70,000 cruise ship staff are currently waiting for repatriation.

The UK Chamber of Shipping has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to demand urgent action to facilitate crew changes, asking the government to call a virtual summit to assist the "forgotten key workers".

Liverpool Seafarers Centre has been calling for help for seafarers throughout the pandemic, fearing the impact on the physical and mental health of the many thousands stranded on board ships long after their working contracts have ended.

John Wilson, chief executive of the charity, has been collecting and distributing donations including toiletries, confectionery, food and games, to seafarers but says more must be done to assist those affected by the pandemic travel restrictions.

The theme of this year’s Day of the Seafarers is 'Seafarers are Key Workers', recognising the vital role they play in delivering goods such as food and medicines to our shores. The campaign, led by the IMO, calls on member states to recognise seafarers as key workers and provide them with the support, assistance and travel options open to all key workers during the pandemic.

Mr Wilson said: "We mark Day of the Seafarer every year, but the event has taken on extra significance in 2020 as we consider the plight of the thousands of workers stranded on ships around the world.

"It is of paramount importance that the home countries of our seafarers relax their travel restrictions to enable them to return home to their families when their duties have ended.

"Seafarers should be classed as international key workers and afforded the same rights as all key workers.

"We have already seen the effects on the seafarers we have visited, with many left feeling isolated and depressed by the current situation, and we can only imagine the long-term effects this will have on mental health.

"I back the UK Chamber's plea to Boris Johnson and the IMO’s demands for countries to relax their travel restrictions to provide some hope to the thousands of seafarers on the Day of the Seafarer."

Formed in 2008 as a joint initiative between the Catholic and Anglican Mission's in Liverpool, Liverpool Seafarers Centre, gives practical and emotional help to more than 50,000 seafarers passing through North West of England ports each year with bases in Liverpool Cruise Terminal, Crosby and Eastham.

Liverpool Seafarers Centre was recently crowned the world’s best seafarer centre at an awards ceremony held as part of London International Shipping Week in the autumn.

LSC was singled out by the International Seafarer Welfare Awards (ISWAN) due to the exceptional care it offers visiting seafarers and their families.

LSC finished top ahead of seafarer centres in America in Houston and Philadelphia as well as Sydney Australia and Tauranga, New Zealand.