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IMO urges travel ban exemption for seafarers

PHOTO: CF SHARP Crew repatriation.jpg
Repatriation of cruise ship crew employed by CF Sharp Crew Management
The International Maritime Organization echoed earlier calls by shipping industry bodies for governments to recognise seafarers as 'key workers' providing essential services and therefore exempt from national travel or movement restrictions.

A circular letter issued last week specifically calls on governments to permit professional seafarers and marine personnel to disembark ships in port and transit through their territory (i.e. to an airport) to allow crews to be changed and seafarers to be repatriated.

'Practical and pragmatic approach' urged

The letter reiterates earlier calls made by IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim, who said it was 'crucially important that the flow of commerce by sea should not be unnecessarily disrupted.' Lim added his personal view that seafarers were 'on the front line of this global calamity' and called for a 'practical and pragmatic approach, in these unusual times, to issues like crew changeovers, resupply, repairs, survey and certification and licensing of seafarers.'

No blanket answer

Ship managers association InterManager is also exercised by the issue of crew movements but Secretary General Capt. Kuba Szymanski told Seatrade Maritime News there is 'no blanket answer.' Instead, the association’s members carry out risk assessment on a case-by-case basis, he said, with individual decisions 'reached together with seafarers.'

Szymanski related how there are some cases where crew 'can just step off and on the vessel' such as the ferry and liner trade; others where the ship can 'call at favourable destinations and crew change is arranged with relative ease'; yet more where 'charter flights are being arranged for larger number of crews of one nationality' such as in the cruise industry; and, finally. cases 'where the best option is to wait and get the vessel to the destination where regular airliners fly.'

International Chamber of Shipping

International Chamber of Shipping secretary-general Guy Platten commented: 'We welcome the IMO Secretary General’s positive response to the industry recommendations, following the G20 recognition of the value of the maritime sector in their call to minimise disruptions to trade and global supply chains.

'We urgently need governments and administrations to coordinate their efforts to provide access to berths in ports, to develop consistent measures to facilitate crew changes in ports, ensure measures are put in place to facilitate port (and related) operations and to ensure that appropriate health protection procedures are made available in ports.'

See also earlier report on the seafarer advocacy of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, one of the world’s largest maritime registries.