Crew change has been in the spotlight for many months now during the pandemic, with many key shipping stakeholders urging the industry to continue crew changes and designate seafarers as key workers.

Despite several campaigns taking place throughout the globe, INTERCARGO highlights that hundreds of thousands of seafarers still continue serving after completing their Seafarer Employment Agreement (SEA), and that many of them have now spent well over 12 months on board.

Dimitris Fafalios, Chairman of INTERCARGO commented that

The situation is reaching farcical proportions. We have seen crew changes refused because a COVID test could not be carried out within the prescribed 48-hour window before the crew’s arrival, despite the journey to the port taking three days.

INTERCARGO believes that the focus of attention should be on following measures:

  1. INTERCARGO supports the cross-industry recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the COVID-19 pandemic and places great emphasis on accurate testing procedures, especially for on-signing crew.
  2. INTERCARGO calls for increased diligence by crewing agents arranging on-signing crew so that this does not happen again.
  3. Seafarers shall be tested prior to departure from their home country and tested again at arrival to port prior to going on board ship. Similarly, seafarers disembarking from ships shall be tested prior to coming ashore or flying out. If tests are negative, they shall be exonerated from quarantine.
  4. All seafarers shall be allowed to travel with visa exemptions for joining ships.
  5. Port States must allow seafarers to sign off without confirmed flight tickets and wait in isolation hotels while awaiting flights, which could be long, subject to availability of flights.

Spyros Tarasis, Vice-Chairman of INTERCARGO concluded that

Everybody knows where the problems lie – with the airlines, with visas and with health authorities not recognising seafarers as key workers. But nothing is being done, and very soon the shipping industry itself may well be obliged/forced to stop the trading of cargoes essential for welfare and sustaining the smooth running of societies worldwide.