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A 12-step plan for governments to restart crew changes

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In an attempt to resolve the crew change crisis the industry and unions have come together in a 12-step solution providing a roadmap for governments to get seafarers out of COVID-19 lockdown.

The International Maritime Organization has issued the plan to its 174 member states with a global framework to facilitate changeovers of ships’ crews, including addressing the lack of available flights. The document is entitled 'Recommended Framework of Protocols for Ensuring Safe Ship Crew Changes and Travel During the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic.'

Broad coalition

The 55-page roadmap has been advanced by a broad coalition of seafarer unions, and international shipping industry associations, with input from airline industry representatives, international organisations, and the insurance sector.

The need to get crew changes moving again is growing more urgent on a daily basis with the International Chamber of Shipping saying that by two weeks’ time, approximately 150,000 merchant seafarers will need to be changed over to ensure compliance with international maritime regulations. However, as it stands they remain trapped on their vessels due to travel restrictions by states around the globe to try prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

Guy Platten, secretary-general of the ICS, said: '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.

'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.'

150,000 seafarers currently stranded

Stephen Cotton, general secretary, International Transport Workers’ Federation, 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.'

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