Shipowners, seafarers’ unions and maritime employer groups are establishing their own approved international network of quarantine facilities to ensure seafarers can safely join ships, despite unpredictable changes to government border policies.
he move comes as the Omicron variant makes governments close their borders to seafarers needing to leave and join ships.
The Crew Enhanced Quarantine International Programme (#CrewEQUIP) is a partnership between the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC); the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS); and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
#CrewEQUIP will create a list of trusted hotels available for crew quarantines that are independently reviewed. The programme is designed to address frequent changes in government border policies affecting international crew by having the highest standards and industry-best protocols in place, also ensuring that the scheme will continue to safely get crew to vessels even if governments increase their quarantine requirements.
The groups said the programme is:
Urgently needed to avoid the shipping industry returning to the worst extremes of the crew change crisis, which saw 400,000 seafarers trapped working aboard vessels beyond their initial contracts in late 2020, with an equivalent number unable to join vessels and earn income
The groups also said that #CrewEQUIP would be important to have in place in the meantime to support greater levels of crew change.
The groups welcomed the announcement this week of a new joint WHO-ILO-industry action group to advance digital ‘yellow cards’ for seafarers and other workers who need to cross borders for their jobs.
Under the #CrewEQUIP scheme, shipping companies and their representatives such as crewing agents and vessel managers are able to sponsor pre-embarkation quarantine facilities for seafarers to be considered for recognition.
Facilities must meet #CrewEQUIP’s stringent standards for hygiene, testing integrity and data security.
A facility must also pass inspections by Lloyd’s Register, the programme’s recognised external auditor, to become and remain recognised #CrewEQUIP providers.
What is more, from Thursday 16 December, shipowners, shipping companies and their representatives will be able to access the online booking portal to nominate pre-embarkation quarantine facilities at crewequip.org.
#CrewEquip will make the quarantine process smoother for both seafarers and shipowners and ensure high standards are upheld
Guy Platten, Secretary General, International Chamber of Shipping, said.
However, he added that world leaders need to urgently provide a long-term solution to ensure that seafarers are no longer unduly impacted by ever-changing travel and quarantine restrictions.
Seafarers have been, and continue to be, severely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst the world has repeatedly gone into lockdown, seafarers have worked tirelessly to keep international trade continuously moving and ultimately to ensure that the world’s population are kept nourished and warm. Yet, despite the important work seafarers undertake, many governments have made the movement of these key workers on and off ships far from easy
mentioned the Chairman of International Maritime Employers Council (IMEC), Captain Belal Ahmed.
Moreover, the Chair of the ITF Seafarers’ Section, David Heindel, welcomed the #CrewEQUIP partnership by saying that “a successful crew change needs everything to line up across the port States, transit countries, and the right facilities available in place in the home country of seafarers involved.”
Nevertheless, he noted that currently, even seemingly minor alterations to a government’s border, health or quarantine policies can bring a planned crew change to a halt.
Thorough programs like CrewEQUIP, unions and industry are providing a robust system that reduces at least one of the factors that risk successful crew changes. It’s an important initiative and we encourage all responsible shipowners and employers to get behind