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Shipowners, unions call on G20 for global strategy on crew changes

In a joint letter from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) to G20 leaders and ministers they have called on governments to identify ports and nearby airports where crew changes can be resumed as soon as possible.

The letter from the shipowners’ organisation and seafarers’ union to governments follows up on their dialogue with the G20, and the positive outcomes built on in the G20 Trade and Investment Ministers virtual meeting which took place on 30 March and urges G20 leaders and ministers to do “everything possible” to ensure the recommendations of the IMO are implemented.

“For humanitarian reasons – and the need to comply with international safety and employment regulations – crew changes cannot be postponed indefinitely,” the letter signed by ICS secretary general Guy Platten and Stephen Cotton, general secretary of the ITF said.

The letter noted that the 100,000 crew changes usually carried out a month were already being postponed for some significant periods of time.

“The global maritime transport industry recognises that the restrictions and health protocols which currently apply in many States with regard to air travel, the movement of ships’ crews and their embarkation and disembarkation in ports, means that many crew changes may need to be postponed at least until May 2020, and potentially for somewhat longer,” the letter said.

“However, tens of thousands of seafarers, whose tours of duty have to come to end, are already waiting to be repatriated, and we could soon reach a point when flag State Administrations may no longer be willing to grant extensions for seafarers to stay on board their ships.

“It is also a great concern for the industry that the restrictions in place have resulted in thousands of seafarers being at sea for several months already and this, combined with demanding tasks, both physical and mental, increases exponentially the risk of marine accidents and disasters happening, which is a daunting scenario for an already fragile and stretched global economy.”

The letter calls for a global strategy with cooperation between UN specialized agencies, governments and other relevant stakeholders, including major airlines. In addition the establishment of a G20 taskforce on crew changes was suggested.

“As an immediate step, we call on all Governments to identify ports in their countries, and appropriate airports nearby, from where crew changes can be resumed as soon as possible, and to inform IMO and the International Civil Aviation Organization accordingly,” Platten and Cotton said.

“We also call on Governments, in the event of medical emergencies, to provide visiting seafarers with access to emergency medical treatment ashore and, if necessary, to facilitate emergency repatriation as required by the ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.

“We also request, as a matter of urgency, that national authorities should engage immediately with their national shipowners’ association, seafarers’ unions and other relevant stakeholders, in order to explore solutions to the serious problem of conducting crew changes, which otherwise risks impeding collective efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic whilst also allowing global supply chains to continue to function.”

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