Thursday, May 7, 2020

Supply Chain Coalition and IMO Coordinate Plan to Repatriate Crews Stranded by Covid-19

Roadmap Back to Normality Sent Worldwide by Logistics Associated Organisations
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – A supply chain coalition of transport associated unions and stakeholders from across the logistics sector has published details of a road map and twelve step solution to enable governments to free seafarers safely from the Covid-19 lockdown. The group says the plan, issued by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), provides a route forward for governments on how to facilitate ship crew changes during the pandemic.

The IMO plan aims to assist governments to put in place coordinated procedures to facilitate the safe movement of seafarers. In two weeks’ time approximately 150,000 merchant seafarers will need to be changed over to ensure compliance with international maritime regulations, and the proposals, sent out to the 174 IMO member states, was produced in record time to hopefully enable governments to take the urgent action needed to address this issue.

This 55-page roadmap has been advanced by a broad coalition of seafarers’ unions, and international shipping industry associations, with input from airline industry representatives, international organisations, and the insurance sector, to provide a comprehensive blueprint of precisely how governments can facilitate crew changeovers and resolve safety concerns throughout the entire process. Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) commented:

“Seafarers continue to work really hard, day-in, day-out and far away from loved ones, but if we are not able to free our seafarers from their Covid-19 lockdown we could start to see disruption to trade and more importantly we increase the risk of accident and occurrences of mental health issues. Putting this off is no longer an option.

“The problem is simplistic, but the solution is complex. So, we have stepped up and done the homework and developed the protocols. We are now working with governments to implement this roadmap.”

Globally many crews have already spent many months at sea and 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. Stephen Cotton, General Secretary, International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) said:

“Today seafarers’ unions, industry and the ILO and IMO are jointly calling on governments worldwide to put an end to hardships faced by the 150,000 seafarers currently stranded and pave a way for them to return home. This is about governments recognising the critical role that seafarers play in global supply chains, recognising them as key workers, and providing immediate and consistent exceptions from Covid-19 restrictions to allow crew changeovers.

“International seafarers are bearing the burden first-hand as governments turn a blind eye to the ‘forgotten sector’. The ITF, ICS and IMO have a clear message, governments cannot continue with a mentality of out of sight, out of mind, and we strongly urge governments to use this roadmap to act now before we suffer more serious consequences.”

The IMO document can be read in full HERE and drills down into the smallest detail in an effort to ensure that all safety concerns regarding possible transmission are accounted for. What the coalition of shipping and logistics interests all agree on is the need to ensure there are safe modes of transport in place to enable crew to be repatriated or replaced. Given the international nature of the industry it will be essential that flights are available to achieve this.

Photo: Opulent they may be but even the finest cruise ship can start to resemble a prison to crew members when there is no possibility to get home. Courtesy Royal Caribbean.