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Crew Change Crisis

Seafarer shortages loom if crew change crisis persist, warns MAJ

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The global crew change crisis could result in a shortage of seafarers if exhausted crew choose to leave the shipping industry rather than risk another long period trapped at sea, warned the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ).

Rear Admiral (retired) Peter Brady, MAJ director general, highlighted the potential danger to the shipping industry if there is a mass exodus of crew from their sea-going jobs to take up shore-based employment.

“If seafarers are not available to operate the ships, those vessels will simply lay alongside idle. Does the world need that now?”, he challenged, warning that the shipping industry needs to demonstrate to world leaders the vital role crew play in the supply chain.

Condemning the global “ignorance – or is it apathy” concerning the economic value of trade by sea to the world economy, he said: “There is an absolute need to urgently inform, educate, and sensitise both business leaders and consumers across the world as to the important role shipping plays in delivering 90% of global trade.

“Then we must emphasise the stark fact that those ships are staffed by persons who need to be rotated promptly at the end of their contracted shift at sea and returned to their homes and families for the sake of their mental and physical health. Doing this is essential for the safe operation of ships, thereby protecting lives and the environment as well.”

Brady advised that now is the time to speak to a wider audience: "I believe we need to now take the conversation to another level, to speak with the merchants, to speak with the financiers, the bankers, all the people who control the financial aspect of global trade.”

Many countries are focusing on protecting their populations from the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in closure of borders and travel restrictions. These have severely impacted the ability of ship operators to carry out crew changes when seafarers have reached the end of their contracted time at sea.

The IMO has urged nations to classify seafarers as ‘essential workers’ in order to facilitate their smooth transit on shore, but so far only about 55 countries have done this.

“It seems that it is time for another global summit to include the United Nations, its relevant agencies such as the IMO, International Labour Organization, industry bodies such as the International Chamber of Shipping, and even the International Civil Aviation Organization. It should not be a talk shop but one which pledges to set goals for the industry and then sends a compelling document to the global financial institutions to indicate the impact on global trade if seafarers are not available to crew ships,” Brady said.

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