ECSA and ETF have issued a Joint Statement urging for the recognition of seafarers as ‘key workers’.
Trade unions and employers associations in the maritime industry have been calling on States throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to recognise seafarers as ‘key workers’.
For this reason, governments, shipowners and seafarers groups are meeting in the Special Tripartite Committee of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC, 2006) to exchange information on the implementation of the MLC – also known as Seafarers’ Bill of Rights.
In view of the absence of a universal definition of the ‘key worker’ term, the European Social Partners believe that it is more beneficial to focus attention on the specific rights and entitlements that seafarers should enjoy everywhere.
What is more, while a number of governments have designated seafarers in this way, allowing for unrestricted travel and transit through airports, seaports and river terminals to keep global trade moving, there is no universal definition of the term ‘key worker’ and it has different meanings in different countries.
Hence the European social partners believe that it is more beneficial to focus attention on the specific rights and entitlements that seafarers should enjoy everywhere
The ETF and ECSA have therefore established a of such rights and entitlements to help Member States in ensuring the health and wellbeing of maritime professionals as they perform their key function.
Operators should ensure that seafarers:
- Can travel to and from their country of domicile and their place of work without restriction
- Can move freely between regions and states of applicable countries
Moreover, operators should:
- Work together to ensure that IMO Protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel are implemented.
- Ratify and implement ILO C185 – Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention.
- In the case of their embassy, consulate or high commission being closed in a seafarer’s country of residence, make provisions for any required visas to be issued upon arrival.
According to ECSA and ETF, operators should exempt seafarers from quarantine upon arrival in the jurisdiction in which they will sign on to their vessel.
Operators should make sure that procedures are in place that comply with the International Chamber of Shipping Guidance for Ship Operators for the Protection of the Health of Seafarers.
Operators should prioritise seafarers for Covid-19 testing, especially where test results are necessary in advance of a seafarer joining their vessel.
They should also prioritise seafarers for Covid-19 testing where necessary in jurisdictions visited by the seafarer and assist industry in providing access to onboard Covid-19 testing.
Operators should ensure that seafarers will have access welfare facilities ashore, or that welfare organisations can safely approach vessels at the dockside, via tender or that welfare providers can board vessels.
During the in planning for vaccination programmes in their own jurisdictions, operators should ensure that seafarers can access vaccinations as a priority, in order to further facilitate the easing of restrictions currently faced.
In addition, working with shipowners and trade unions, operators should plan for seafarers currently at sea to be able to access Covid-19 vaccinations as early as possible.
Finally, operators should ensure that seafarers resident in their territories who cannot access employment because of cessations or reductions of activity, a lack of available transport, closed borders or other crew change difficulties resulting from the pandemic, can access schemes of financial support that are available to their residents who are engaged in other professions.