Leading shipping executives comment on signing Neptune Declaration on crew change

Photo: Global Maritime Forum gmfaudience.jpg
On Tuesday 327 companies and organisations publicly committed to the Neptune Declaration of Crew Change and Seafarer Welfare in a pledge to resolve the crisis that has left hundreds of thousands of seafarers stranded on vessels when their contracts expired.

The declaration under the auspices of the Global Maritime Forum is a worldwide call for action on the crew change crisis caused by Covid-19 travel restrictions and a failure by many nations to recognise seafarers as key workers.

A number of leading executives from companies and organisations that have signed the declaration have issued public statements and comments on the declaration and Seatrade Maritime News has compiled some of these quotes that demonstrate the strength of feeling across the maritime industries.

As signatory to the Neptune Declaration shipowner MSC has experienced well publicised issues with the inability to conduct crew change on the bulker Anastasia stranded of Northeast China for over six months.

toftneptune.jpg"As we move in to the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the health and well-being of our seafarers is at the top of our minds. The urgent matter of facilitating seafarer repatriations and crew changes is a vital one that needs immediate attention,” said Soren Toft, ceo of MSC.

“On top of MSC's efforts last year to bring the critical issue of crew changes to the attention of governments, we believe it is more important than ever to appreciate the valuable contribution that seafarers bring to the global economy and to ensure that these people are recognised as key workers. Seafarers and shipping have kept the world moving amid Covid-19 lockdowns and it is imperative that governments give full support to alleviate the crewing crisis and keep trade flowing unhindered," Toft continued.

Malaysian tanker owner and operator MISC, which also includes AET, was also among the signatories.

MISC president and group ceo, Yee Yang Chien said, “Today, we – MISC, AET and Eaglestar take a step forward; unified as a signatory to the Neptune Declaration to further intensify our efforts to resolve the dilemma of seafarers being stranded at sea which has greatly affected their physical and mental wellbeing.”

“As a responsible corporate citizen, we take our role as a signatory with great commitment as it is vital that we join forces to ensure the sustainability of the entire maritime value chain. We are confident of arriving at solutions to resolve the long-standing issues and we know that the Neptune Declaration will bring forward a positive impact,” he added.

Stena Bulk president and ceo Erik Hanell commented on signing the Neptune declaration, “As one of the world’s leading tanker shipping companies, we acknowledge our responsibility to ensure that the crew change crisis is resolved as soon as possible.

“We’ve always supported the idea that shipping needs to embrace more partnership and collaboration to tackle the industry’s biggest challenges. We believe that the Neptune Declaration is a much-needed initiative that will allow us to join forces with other industry leaders, partners and friends to facilitate crew changes and keep global supply chains functioning,” Hanell added.

Representing seafarers and unions signatory the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) called for words to transformed into action.

cottonneptune.jpg“The ITF welcomes the commitment from shipowners, charterers, investors, NGOs and industry groups in signing the Neptune Declaration, and now there is an expectation that words are turned into action,” said Stephen Cotton, general secretary of the ITF.

“Companies must now be held to account. This means no more charter parties with ‘no crew change’ clauses: charterers must work with shipowners to facilitate crew changes. This means investors asking the companies they own and deal with what the companies are doing to address the crisis. And this means asking why any company in the industry didn’t sign this declaration,” said Cotton.

Gerardo A. Borromeo, vice-chairman & ceo of Philippine Transmarine Carriers (PTC), one of the world’s largest crewing agents, commented:  “We have a unique opportunity to make a difference, coming together to resolve the humanitarian concerns of our seafarers - they are the “heart and soul” of a ship who enable this industry to “move the world.”

Hong Kong-based dry bulk commodities and chartering company Caravel Group and its ship management operation Fleet Shipmanagement, one of the world’s largest ship managers also signed up to the Neptune Declaration.

“Travel restrictions brought about by the global pandemic have pushed seafarers to their limits,” said Harry Banga, chairman and ceo of the Caravel Group. “Thousands of seafarers are stranded aboard ships and are forced to work beyond their contracted period of employment. It is our collective responsibility to protect the rights and wellbeing of our seafarers, and we must do what we can to put an end to this humanitarian crisis.”

oneilnepute.jpgSpeaking for the ship’s managers association InterManager president, Mark O’Neil, said: “This is a huge step forward for seafarers and the maritime community, and InterManager are proud to be involved in putting an end to this humanitarian crisis.

“Seafarers are fundamental in the global supply chain, and we have a shared responsibility across the entire maritime value chain to resolve this crisis as soon as possible. It’s promising to have so many global industry and human rights leaders involved in these efforts, and that steps toward ending the crew change crisis are being giving such weighted leverage.”

Graham Westgarth, chairman of the world’s largest ship manager V.Group, commented, said: “Seafarers play a significant role in the global race to halt the coronavirus pandemic by providing critical medical supplies to the world’s population, particularly in developing economies. They are crucial to millions of peoples’ wellbeing.

“We call on our peers, government bodies, and other stakeholders to join us in our efforts to ensure that the rights and wellbeing of the frontline workers of global supply chains are respected.”

unnineptune.jpgRajesh Unni, ceo of ship management group Synergy, said, “The fact that many countries are still not giving the seafarers their deserved recognition is unacceptable. It is our collective responsibility to have all seafarers be truly recognized and treated as key workers with vaccinations a priority and travel restrictions lifted for them immediately.”

Global terminal operator PSA International signed the Neptune Declaration as well as teaming up with the World Economic Forum (WEF) and 17 other like-minded partners to support UNICEF in distributing Covid-19 vaccines under the global COVAX programme.

Tan Chong Meng, group ceo of PSA International, said, “In our interconnected and interdependent world, multi-stakeholder collaboration and action are key. PSA stands alongside our industry partners and stakeholders as we commit to ensuring the well-being of the seafarers in our spheres of influence, and to do our part to enable the globally inclusive, safe and sustainable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.”

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