Accordingly, representatives from 13 countries expressed their deep concern about the current crisis and acknowledged that “the inability of ship operators worldwide to conduct ship’s crew changes is the single most pressing maritime operational challenge to the safe and efficient movement of global trade”. 

They also highlight that seafarers’ tours of duty cannot continue to be extended and need to be kept to a duration of less than 12 months, as set out by the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006, as amended – the global shipping industry estimates that, since March 2020, only about 25% of normal crew changes have taken place; apart from the humanitarian and crew welfare concerns, and issues of regulatory compliance, there is an increasing risk that fatigue and mental health issues could lead to serious maritime accidents.

Specifically, the twelve governments note:

  1. to all International Maritime Organization (IMO) states to designate seafarers as “key workers” providing an essential service, to facilitate a safe and unhindered movement for embarking or disembarking a vessel.
  2. to consider the legal possibilities for accepting internationally recognised documentation, such as International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers certificate, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Seafarers’ Identity Document (ILO 185) and a letter by the seafarers’ company, carried by seafarers as evidence of their status as key workers, and purpose of their travel and movement for crew changes.
  3. engage, nationally, multilaterally and bilaterally, in discussions about implementation, to the maximum extent possible, as appropriate to the circumstances that may prevail nationally or locally, of the recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
  4. review, working in conjunction with their health, immigration and other relevant ministries, agencies and authorities, the necessity of any restrictions that may continue to apply, at national and/or local level, to the movement and travel of seafarers for the purpose of conducting ships’ crew changes. This includes the possibility of allowing exemptions from quarantine or similar restrictions in accordance with relevant international rules or health regulatory guidelines.
  5. consider, in liaison with their relevant ministries and authorities, including those responsible for immigration, temporary measures including (where possible under relevant law) the possibility of waivers, exemptions or other relaxations from any visa or documentary requirements that might normally apply to seafarers.
  6. explore, in cooperation with the International Civil Aviation Organization and the aviation industry, ways of increasing access, as soon as possible, to commercial flights to and from the principal countries of origin of seafarers and the airports in reasonable proximity to those seaports where crew changes are effected.
  7. urge all IMO members to take any necessary measures, within their area of jurisdiction, to ensure seafarers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic enjoy safe crew changes as well as repatriation to their home countries or to their place of ordinary residence.

The move was welcomed by the IMO, while IMO Secretary-General Lim applauded the pledge, by signatory countries of the joint statement, to encourage all IMO states to designate seafarers as key workers and to implement the Protocols for Ensuring Safe Ship Crew Changes and Travel during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic.

Concluding, the Governments that joined this effort are:

  • United Kingdom
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Indonesia
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Philippines
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Singapore
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United States of America

Concluding, for more information click on the circular herebelow

Circular Letter No.42/04 Add.24