The UK Chamber of Shipping has urged the UK government to become the first in the world to adopt new measures to ensure ship crew changes can take place.
The trade association has also called on the government to exclude seafarers and offshore workers from any potential air travel quarantine restrictions which may be introduced.
The new 12-step roadmap for crew changes was developed by the International Chamber of Shipping with input from global associations and was issued by the International Maritime Organisation. The aim is to help free tens of thousands of seafarers from their COVID-19 lockdown and allow them to join or leave ships.
In the early stages of the lockdown, the UK government set an excellent example to the rest of the world by pledging to keep ports open for crew changes and shore leave. The Chamber of Shipping believes it is therefore well placed to be the first to adopt these new measures, but it must also exclude seafarers and offshore workers from any quarantine protocols which are being considered.
UK Chamber of Shipping Chief Executive Bob Sanguinetti said:
“There are more than 1.2m seafarers at sea at any one time and currently 150,000 seafarers due to change over. The UK government has an opportunity to become the first in the world to officially adopt and endorse these change-over measures. But it is imperative this is a two-step approach and the government avoids applying air travel quarantine restrictions to seafarers and other maritime workers.
“If we want to ensure supply chains remain open, and essential goods including food, fuel, raw materials and vital medical supplies continue to flow into the country, it is vital that crew changes can take place and seafarers are allowed to move between countries without imposition. We call on the UK government to once more lead the way and set an example to other governments.”
This critical issue is increasingly taking on a humanitarian dimension for those crews who have already spent many months at sea, and who urgently need to be repatriated to their home countries and to be replaced. Apart from the need for shipping companies to comply with international regulations and contractual obligations, service periods on board ships cannot be extended indefinitely due to the dangerous impacts this has for the health and well-being of ship crew and, most importantly, safe ship operations.