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IMO, ICAO and ILO in urgent plea on crew changes, key worker status

The heads of UN agencies for maritime, labour and aviation have issued a joint urgent call for action on crew changes and designating seafarers and air workers as key workers.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) noted that by mid-June nearly 150,000 seafarers a month would require international flights either for repatriation or to join vessels as replacement crew.

"For humanitarian reasons – and the need to comply with international safety and employment regulations – crew changes cannot be postponed indefinitely," the statement said. "We are seeking the support of Governments to facilitate crew changes, operations essential to maintain the global cargo supply chains and operations related to humanitarian aid, medical and relief flights."

Seafarers around the world have been stranded on ships after their contracts expire due to restrictions on crew changes by states in an effort to stem the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a lack of scheduled aviation even if changeovers can take place.

The three organisations are also urging key worker recognition for marine, fishing vessel, offshore energy sector, aviation, and air cargo supply chain personnel, as well as service provider personnel at airports and ports, regardless of nationality.

The statement called on governments and relevant national and local authorities should implement already-agreed guidance, issued by ICAO, IMO, ILO and the World Health Organization (WHO)

Earlier this month, IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim endorsed a series of protocols developed by a broad cross-section of global maritime industry associations to ensure that ship crew changes can take place safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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