Namely, the letter was sent separately on the 26 October 2020 to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Transport, Marine Department of Thailand and the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), which is the main governing body managing Thailand’s COVID-19 response and chaired by the Prime Minister.
According to the letter:
Some 400,000 seafarers currently need to be relieved, and this number rises with every week that passes. Some of these seafarers have now spent 15 months or more continuously on board. An equal number are awaiting to join ships. This is a humanitarian crisis that must be solved to protect seafarers that have been on ships for far too long. We are also concerned that any interruption to the flow of trade could have devastating consequences for the recovery phase of COVID-19 pandemic.
What is more, the smooth facilitation of crew changes in Asia, is prevented by, amongst other things, the difficulties of seafarers in obtaining visas.
As ASA further noted, the current practice in most countries, of issuing visas at their missions in foreign countries and on arrival at sea and air ports, may be overwhelmed with visa requests and unable to cope with the forecasted twothreefold increase in visa demands per month in the coming weeks, along with current backlogs of visas for crew changes.
"We are therefore seeking Thailand’s concurrence in calling for an introduction of a temporary visa waivers for crew changes through appropriate means. These should be implemented nationally for seafarers holding a seafarer's identity document issued in accordance with the ILO Conventions No 108 or No 185, or the IMO Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic, those holding a valid ticket or a booking with ships’ agents as the guarantors of their bona fide identities".
Moreover, given the territorial limitation of such a waiver to the State granting it, ASA calls for cooperation between Asian countries to temporarily allow for a visa free transit area in Asia for seafarers.
Following the limited flight options which also cause difficulties in aligning flights with vessel embarkation and disembarkation times, the letter recommends Thailand to allow seafarers of any nationality to stay in the country until the arrival of the flight or ship, without restricting the number of days.
"We call on Thailand to urge other governments to remove national restrictions and to allow for seafarers to stay in their countries for at least 10 days for the purposes of onsigning and repatriating albeit restricting seafarer movement".
This is our second letter to Asian Leaders to save our seafarers. We are very much concerned that the interruption to the flow of global trade could have devastating consequences for the recovery phase of COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to the immediate involvement of the Thailand authorities to enable crew changes to happen.
...ASA Secretary General, Yuchi Sonoda, stated.