A coalition of 15 countries on Thursday called for action to facilitate the immediate safe resumption of seafarer crew changes globally.
At least 200,000 seafarers require immediate repatriation, with many whose contracts have been either continuously extended or which have run out. There is a similar number of seafarers that urgently need to join their ships in order to allow the world’s internationally trading vessels to continue to operate safely.
At the virtual meeting based in London, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) Secretary General, Guy Platten told ministers from 15 countries:
“Each of you know the value that shipping brings to your country. Shipping transports seven trillion dollars’ worth of raw materials, goods, including medical equipment, food and fuel each year. If this crew change issue is not resolved, we could start to see a logjam which will impact each and every one of you in your ability to trade globally.
An urgent demand of the shipping community is for seafarers to be classified as key workers, meaning that they will be given priority for transport and visa issuance.
The summit issues a Joint Statement, asking for urgent action to:
- Encourage all International Maritime Organization (IMO) states to designate seafarers as “key workers” providing an essential service, to facilitate a safe and unhindered movement for embarking or disembarking a vessel.
- Consider the legal possibilities for accepting internationally recognised documentation, such as International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers certificate, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Seafarers’ Identity Document (ILO 185) and a letter by the seafarers’ company, carried by seafarers as evidence of their status as key workers, and purpose of their travel and movement for crew changes.
- Engage, nationally, multilaterally and bilaterally, in discussions about implementation, to the maximum extent possible, as appropriate to the circumstances that may prevail nationally or locally, of the recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, circulated to IMO member states as Circular Letter No.4204/Add.14 on 5 May 2020.
- Review, working in conjunction with our health, immigration and other relevant ministries, agencies and authorities, the necessity of any restrictions that may continue to apply, at national and/or local level, to the movement and travel of seafarers for the purpose of conducting ships’ crew changes. This includes the possibility of allowing exemptions from quarantine or similar restrictions in accordance with relevant international rules or health regulatory guidelines.
- Consider, in liaison with our relevant ministries and authorities, including those responsible for immigration, temporary measures including (where possible under relevant law) the possibility of waivers, exemptions or other relaxations from any visa or documentary requirements that might normally apply to seafarers.
- Explore, in cooperation with the International Civil Aviation Organization and the aviation industry, ways of increasing access, as soon as possible, to commercial flights to and from the principal countries of origin of seafarers and the airports in reasonable proximity to those seaports where crew changes are effected.
- Urge all IMO members to take any necessary measures, within their area of jurisdiction, to ensure seafarers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic enjoy safe crew changes as well as repatriation to their home countries or to their place of ordinary residence.