The leaders of the world’s highest maritime, aviation and labour authorities have issued a joint statement calling on governments to facilitate maritime crew changes and designate the millions of workers in critical transport industries through the present pandemic as ‘key workers’.
Fang Liu (International Civil Aviation Organization), Kitack Lim (International Maritime Organization) and Guy Ryder (International Labour Organization) say that the aviation and maritime transport sectors, along with fisheries industry, are too important to global supply chains to have any disruption caused by government restrictions preventing crew change and travel.
“Our three Organizations seek to ensure that seafarers, marine personnel, fishing vessel personnel, offshore energy sector personnel, aviation personnel, air cargo supply chain personnel, service provider personnel at airports and ports are designated as ‘key workers’, regardless of nationality, to exempt them from travel restrictions, to ensure their access to emergency medical treatment and, if necessary, to facilitate emergency repatriation,” said the leaders.
The international bodies also urged governments to remove restrictions stopping crew from disembarking from ships in port. Currently, many transport workers cannot transit through a territory to an airport or other transport hub for a crew change and repatriation home. They say repatriation flights must be sped up.
“We are seeking the support of Governments to facilitate crew changes, operations essential to maintain the global cargo supply chains and operations related to humanitarian aid, medical and relief flights. For humanitarian reasons – and the need to comply with international safety and employment regulations – crew changes cannot be postponed indefinitely,” they said.
Governments have been encouraged to grant all seafarers, fishers, offshore energy workers, and aviation and airports workers exemptions from national travel- and health-related restrictions in order to facilitate the resumption of crew changes on ships and aircraft, and in airports and cargo facilities.
The call adds pressure on governments to act urgently on maritime crew changes. Approximately 200,000 seafarers are currently stuck on board vessels across the world, unable to relieved by fresh crew due to the Covid-19 restrictions brought in by governments across the world.
The 16th of June is looming as the deadline given by the ITF and maritime employers for governments to implement the IMO protocols that would make crew changes possible.
The ITF has warned that the restrictions must be removed to avoid any shutdown in global trade.