Governments from across the world express their appreciation to seafarers and pledge to urgently resolve issues that have arisen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 9th representatives from over a dozen countries published a joint statement about the impact of COVID-19 on crew changes. The statement expresses deep concerns about the global crisis. Specifically, those created by obstacles affecting ship’s crew changes, the impact on the wellbeing of seafarers, and the impact that any failure to resolve these issues will have on maritime transport, which must be permitted to continue to operate safely and efficiently throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The statement followed the ministerial International Maritime Virtual Summit organised by the United Kingdom. From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions and border closures have caused significant hurdles to crew changes and left hundreds of thousands of seafarers stranded onboard ships, or unable to join ships. The attendees of the summit acknowledge that “the inability of ship operators worldwide to conduct ship’s crew changes is the single most pressing maritime operational challenge to the safe and efficient movement of global trade”.
At least 200,000 seafarers are estimated to require immediate repatriation, with many serving on extended crew contracts who are overdue to return home, in addition to 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.
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has welcomed the commitment by the signatory countries of the joint statement to facilitate crew changes and achieve key worker designation for seafarers. In addition the statement also recognises the importance of considering the possibility of waivers or exemptions from visa or documentary requirements for seafarers, and to help increase access to commercial flights to and from the principal countries of origin of seafarers.
The joint statement is signed by representatives from the following countries: Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States of America.
The International Maritime Summit on Crew Changes was hosted by the United Kingdom Government and was also attended by representatives from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the UK Chamber of Shipping, Nautilus International and Maritime UK.