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Shipping and aviation join forces on crew change crisis

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In the latest move to get crew changes happening again the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has joined forces with the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

With an estimated 100,000 crew monthly unable to be changed over due to COVID-19 restrictions at ports worldwide there is a growing crisis of seafarers whose contracts are up but unable to the leave the vessel and return home.

While there are a number of initiatives to push for action by governments including by the ICS and the union the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), and by groups private managers and owners, air transport remains a key part of the puzzle.

While some key maritime hubs such as the UAE and Singapore have said they crew changes in special circumstances an almost total closure of passenger aviation industry means it is virtually impossible to repatriate seafarers to their home countries or bring in replacement crew.

A joint statement from IATA and ICS said: “ICS and IATA are calling on all governments to designate a specific and limited number of crew change airports for the safe movement and repatriation of crew. This would achieve critical mass for the resumption of crew change flights to these airports, keeping global supply chains open.

“Priority airports should include those close to major shipping lanes which also have direct air connections to principal seafarer countries of residence, such as China, India and the Philippines as well as destinations in western and eastern Europe.”

The ICS and IATA are with their respective global regulators - IMO and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) - on recommended standard procedures and procedures for governments to follow.

“Airlines have been required to cut passenger services in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19. But if Governments identify airports that seafarers can use for crew changes and make appropriate adjustments to current health and immigration protocols, airlines can help keep global logistics moving,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and ceo.