The IMO has issued a 12-step plan to assist governments enact coordinated procedures for the safe movement of seafarers. The aim is to provide its 174 member states with a roadmap to free seafarers from their Covid-19 lockdown and allow appropriate exemptions for them to crew change.
The 55-page roadmap has been advanced by a broad coalition of seafarers’ unions, and international shipping industry associations, with input from airline industry representatives, international organizations, and the insurance sector. The 12-step solution provides governments with the global framework to facilitate changeovers of ships’ crews, including the lack of available flights. The protocols set out the responsibility of governments, shipowners, transport providers and seafarers.
In two weeks’, time, approximately 150,000 merchant seafarers will need to be changed over to ensure compliance with international maritime regulations, with tens of thousands currently trapped onboard ships across the globe due to the continuing imposition of travel restrictions.
The issue is increasingly taking on a humanitarian dimension for those crews which have already spent many months at sea and which urgently need to be repatriated to their home countries and to be replaced. Apart from the need for shipping companies to comply with international regulations and contractual obligations, service periods on board ships cannot be extended indefinitely due to the dangerous impacts this has for the health and well-being of ship crew and, most importantly, safe ship operations.
Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) said: “The problem is simplistic, but the solution is complex. So, we have stepped up and done the homework and developed the protocols. We are now working with governments to implement this roadmap.
“Seafarers continue to work really hard, day-in, day-out and far away from loved ones, but if we are not able to free our seafarers from their COVID-19 lockdown we could start to see disruption to trade and more importantly we increase the risk of accident and occurrences of mental health issues. Putting this off is no longer an option.”
The roadmap is available here.
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