Opening the letter, Kelly Tolhurst, Minister for Aviation, Maritime and Security, reassures that the UK is fully committed to the welfare of seafarers of all nationalities.
I want to assure all of you that the UK will continue to recognise our commitments under the international conventions regarding the transit and transfer of seafarers and their right to access shore leave.
She added that the seafarers are the lifeblood of the world’s economy, and as a coastal, port and flag State, the UK recognises the critical position that seafarers hold in both the UK and the global economy. For this reason, freight must be able to flow inwards and outwards of the country, while global trade should continue for the benefit of all citizens and the global economy, he explained.
UK is also committed to keeping its ports open and do not propose to restrict the transit or transfer of seafarers through the UK or to restrict access to shore leave. It wants to ensure that seafarers and those at the ports are protected and have in place robust measures to ensure the safety of all persons.
The ministry added that it respects the right of States to close borders, but asks them to consider the facilitation of the transit and transfer of seafarers wherever possible. "It is critical to the health and welfare of every State and to their own and the global economies that we ensure that supply chains remain open and collectively we do not restrict the movement of vessels and seafarers," the letter reads.
Moreover, the minister calls States to allow vessels to change crew to ensure the health and welfare of individuals and for the safety of the vessel. He also urges for compassion when there are sick on board and to not turn away vessels, their crew or their passengers.
We will endeavour to provide appropriate treatment for any seafarer should they become ill. We also recognise that seafarers will be concerned about family and loved ones back home and will facilitate access to shore leave or to transit home
Ms. Tolhurst also recognises that seafarers may be wary of accessing shore and prefer to stay on board. This is to be respected and where possible, access to communication facilities should be provided to allow contact with home or to seek welfare or spiritual guidance.
The minister ends the letter by asking the International Maritime Organization, the International Labour Organization and the World Health Organization for clear joint international guidance and direction to port States, flag States and coastal States supporting seafarers and ship operators.