It is known that hundreds of thousands of seafarers are currently stranded on boardships, with extended contracts beyond the maximum duration of service periods accepted under international treaties, i.e. less than 12 months, while a similar number of seafarers are waiting to join ships.

In light of the crew change crisis, the Committee approved a circular containing protocols for safe crew change during the pandemic.

By giving its approval, the Committee recognizes the industry-developed protocols, which set out general measures and procedures, designed to ensure that ship crew changes and travel can take place safely amid the pandemic.

What is more, the protocols urge the Governments to designate seafarers as key workers that provide an essential service.

At the same time, the protocols include practical steps for joining and leaving ships, including the need for compliance and strict adherence with COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements, and measures to prevent infection on board ships.

According to IMO, protocols are a living document which will be updated in line with the developments of COVID-19 pandemic.

The move to issue crew change protocols via an official IMO circular (MSC.1/Circ.1636) was one of the numerous actions taken by the Committee to address the crew change crisis and support the efforts by UN agencies, the maritime industry and Governments.

Concluding, a new module in IMO's Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS), will provide up-to-date information on national focal points and on ports which facilitate crew changes, following the agreement of the Committee.