The Marshall Islands is encouraging countries to recognise and protect seafarers as key transport workers amid restrictions around the Covid-19 pandemic.
The country's international shipping registry has made the plea as many countries implement precautionary measures in response to the pandemic, including travel bans.
"The unforeseen consequence of these travel bans is the prevention of the change
of ships' crews, either to join a ship or for crews to be relieved and return home to their families," it said in a statement.
The registry said it had received numerous complaints from seafarers that the prevention of them being able to return home was adding to their emotional stress and adversely affecting their well-being.
"During times of crisis, seafarers play an essential role in moving not only food and household goods, but also fuel, medicine, equipment, and critical supplies to places in need."
The registry was concerned that there was little attention paid to the seafarers who kept global shipping moving.
It said the health and safety of seafarers must be prioritised, and urged governments to help them return home at the end of their contracts, rather than spend even more time away from their families.