Crew Change Crisis

IMO, ICS welcomes UN resolution on recognising seafarers as key workers

Photo: IMO ResolutionLarge.jpg
The IMO and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) have welcomed a UN resolution calling for all countries to designate seafarers and other marine personnel as key workers.

The resolution, entitled ‘International cooperation to address challenges faced by seafarers as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic to support global supply chains’, was presented at the 75th Session of the UN’s General Assembly and adopted on 1 December 2020.

The resolution, put forward by Ambassador Dian Triansyah Djani of Indonesia, encourages governments to immediately implement measures to allow crew change, and to ensure access to medical care for all maritime personnel.

Indonesia is leading a coalition of 71 countries demanding global government action, and pressure is set to grow on countries that do not recognise maritime personnel as key workers.

The resolution also means the UN now recognises the need for an urgent and concrete response from all stakeholders, including the private sector, to resolve the situation of seafarers stranded at sea and unable to join ships because of national travel restrictions due to Covid-19.

This is a significant step in recognising the crucial role that 2,000,000 sailors play in transporting food, medicine, energy supplies and other essential raw materials across the globe.

“Sadly, hundreds of thousands of seafarers, who are vital to maintaining supply chains, remain stranded at sea for months beyond their contracted time. This is causing immense strain, fatigue and exhaustion and is unsustainable. I hope that this call to action will result in positive momentum to resolve the crew change crisis,” said Lim Ki-tack, secretary-general of IMO.

“This is a human rights issue. Seafarers' lives are being made impossible through the crew change difficulties and this can only have a detrimental effect on ship safety and on the supply chain, the longer the situation continues,” Lim added.

Guy Platten, secretary-general of ICS, commented: “The inability to rotate crew from their ships and provide safe, frictionless transport through international borders risks the passage of trade that all our economies rely on.

“The ICS understands that 44 UN member states currently classify seafarers as ‘key workers’. While this resolution is a positive step, clearly there is much more to be done. Governments must now leverage their considerable power to persuade others to follow suit and classify their seafarers as key workers,” Platten said.

Meanwhile, noting recent positive news regarding the development of vaccines against Covid-19, Lim said the key worker designation should ensure seafarers and maritime workers receive priority vaccination.

“I hope that the key worker designation will ensure that seafarers can be vaccinated expeditiously. This will go some way to resolving the ongoing crew change crisis,” Lim said.

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