To ensure the continued functioning of the global maritime transportation system, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), issued a new message to G20 leaders. The message calls for co-operation between UN agencies, governments and airlines to find viable solutions to the important issues of facilitating crew changes soon and on a more urgent basis to allow access to emergency medical treatment ashore and urgent repatriation to seafarers, where necessary.
As the message states, “While it is right for Governments to focus on the immediate public health emergency presented by COVID-19, we must not forget that – amongst other economically important activities – that merchant ships move the world’s medical supplies, food, energy and raw materials, plus the manufactured products and components which, due to complex global supply chains, are necessary for national economies to function effectively and for the preservation of jobs. Global trade is dependent on the world’s 2 million seafarers and marine personnel who operate the world’s merchant ships. Given the expected continuation of travel and flight restrictions, there is a critical need for Governments to address the serious problem of facilitating ships’ crew changes. Without co-ordinated global action, the efficient flow of imports and exports carried by sea will be jeopardised, with negative impacts on the resilience of national economies throughout the COVID-19 crisis.”
In this respect, the following comprehensive recommendations to G20 Leaders and Governments are made:
- Designate professional seafarers and marine personnel, regardless of nationality, as “key workers” providing an essential service and grant them appropriate exemptions from national travel or movement restrictions, to enable them to join and leave ships.
- All Governments to identify ports in their countries, and appropriate airports nearby, from where crew changes can safely be resumed as soon as possible.
- Governments, in the event of medical emergencies, to provide visiting seafarers with access to emergency medical treatment ashore and, if necessary, to facilitate emergency repatriation as required by the ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.
- Establish a special G20 taskforce on the issue of ships’ crew changes as an effective response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Cyprus Shipping Chamber, fully supports the abovementioned recommendations and stands ready to continue the ongoing discussions with the Shipping Deputy Ministry, the Cyprus Government and local stakeholders, in order to identify, the soonest possible, viable solutions on crew changes issues and to safeguard access to healthcare on shore, to the unseen heroes of global trade, our seafarers.