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Shipping community puts pressure on governments to end crew change woes

Photo credit: Asociación de Navieros Españoles – ANAVE

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), along with members and partners, has called for governments to prioritise seafarers for vaccinations, as ships around the world sound their horns on ‘Day of the Seafarer’ to highlight a growing crew change crisis.

Esben Poulsson, Chairman of the Board at ICS, commented on the urgent need for governments to live up to their responsibilities:

“In my 50 years in the maritime industry, the crew change crisis has been unprecedented in the devastating impact it has had on seafarers around the world”, he said, following the conclusion of ICS’s quarterly board meeting.

“We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the plight of hundreds of thousands of seafarers. All nations have benefited from their sacrifice throughout the pandemic. Those same nations have a duty to prioritise seafarers for vaccinations and keep their word to allow crew changes.

“We will be feeling the ripple effects of this crisis for years to come, but today, governments have a chance to take meaningful action to protect both seafarers and global trade. They must seize it.

“Seafarers cannot survive on platitudes. The ships sounding their horns today are letting national governments know that the world is watching.”

Government ministers have been invited to attend events around the world to assert the need for tangible action to end travel bans and initiate seafarer vaccine programmes. Meanwhile, vessels are sounding their horns at 12 noon local time on Friday, in ports including Singapore,  Rotterdam, and Los Angeles. ICS released a video  spotlighting seafarers affected by the crisis. In it they urgently call on governments to recognise them as key workers in line with UN recommendations.

200,000 seafarers are currently affected by restrictions which prohibit them from leaving their ships. According to the latest data from the Global Maritime Forum, the crisis is worsening: the number of seafarers working over their contracts has grown from 5.8% in May 2021 to 7.4% in June.

ICS estimates that 900,000 seafarers are from developing nations with limited vaccine supplies. At present, 12 countries are prioritising seafarers for the vaccine and ports across the United States, and in Belgium and the Netherlands are vaccinating crews delivering goods in their ports, regardless of nationality.

ICS has published a Seafarer Vaccination Roadmap, which outlines clear steps for how countries around the world can quickly and effectively create seafarer vaccine hubs in their ports. Meanwhile, the Seafarer International Relief Fund (SIRF), set up by maritime wellbeing charities and supported by ICS, has raised more than $800,000 to support seafarers and their families who have been hard hit by the pandemic.