“Crew change: Drastic measures needed now”

2020 07 27

INTERCARGO cannot even begin tocontemplatethe impacts if terminal and cargo operations were halted and cargo vessels stopped operations  and trading,  as a  result of crew remainingon  board  for 12to17 months. This compromisesthesafety of crew, ships, and cargoes, if worldwide progress is not made on crew  change. About  300,000  seafarers  remain  trapped  on  board  their  shipsand  a  similar  number  are awaiting re-employment with financial hardship.

Despite a universal campaign from all sectors of the shipping industry, INTERCARGO says that hundredsofthousands 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.This situation is exacerbated by the fact that bulk carriers on tramp trading callatmany more ports than other shipping sectors do, piling added strain on an already fatigued workforcewith no hope of crew change.

“Very soon the industry is going to have to say enough is enough,” says Dimitris Fafalios, Chairman of INTERCARGO. “The situation is reaching farcical proportions. We have seen crew changesrefusedbecause 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. Insome  othercountries  which claim  to  allow crew change, in fact this happens only if crew can be replaced with the country’s nationals.These are just someexamples.”

The  two  key  bottlenecks  are  the  airlines  unwillingness  to  make  flights  available  between  shipping destinationsand  crew  source  countries;  and the  lack  of commitment  from  Health  &  Immigration Authorities to facilitate seafarers’ travelling and issuance of visas.

As per Jay K. Pillai, Vice-Chairman of INTERCARGO, “the situation is escalating from bad to worse as the United Nations IMO protocols for Key Workers are not being honoured byall Port States.About35to 40% of all seafarers  on  boardcargo  ships are serving  well over  their  SEA  and  about  10% of  all  seafarers  on board are serving between12to 17 months.This is inhumaneand countriesshould bear full responsibility forit. Some Governments are not facilitating the crew change even for their own citizens. This includes imposing all possible restrictions on crew change in their home  country, restricting flightsand applyingpolicieswhich do not allowseafarers to fly to foreign countries to join ships. It’s a sad story and it can’t continue  like  this  unless  Port  States  who  export/import  cargoes  ensure  that  shipswill  not  depart  with seafarers servingover the MLC limit.More and more countries are prohibiting crew change, though they welcome the cargoes the ships bring to support the welfare of their society.”

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

INTERCARGO supports the cross-industry recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship  crew  changes  and  travel  during  the  coronavirus  (COVID-19)  pandemicand  places  great emphasis on accurate testing procedures, especially for on-signing crew. Recent occurrences of Covid-19 positive crew being allowed to travel from their home countries cannot be condoned by INTERCARGO as it puts seafarers on board and civilians at  risk. INTERCARGO calls for increased diligence by crewing agents arranging on-signing crew so that this does not happen again.

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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.

All seafarers shall be allowed to travel with visa exemptions for joining ships.

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.

INTERCARGO fully supports the outcome of the International Maritime Summit on Crew Change earlier in July,wherethirteen countries signed agreements to facilitate crew changes. INTERCARGO encourages all governments  that  are  signatories  to  the  IMO  SOLAS  convention  to  join and  implement the  above agreement and especially countries which benefit most from the import and export of dry bulk cargoes.

INTERCARGO would like to remind the airline industry of the great economic support provided through seafarer, superintendent, specialist technician and surveyor travel to and from ships before the Covid-19 crisis. Hundreds of thousands or even more than a million tickets annually provided a significant economic boost to airlines globally. INTERCARGO reminds airlines not to forget seafarers during these difficult times.

Spyros Tarasis,  Vice-Chairman  of  INTERCARGO  sums  up,  saying: “This  has  become  a  talking  shop. Everybody knows where the  problems lie –with the airlines,with visasand with health authorities not recognisingseafarers 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 runningof societiesworldwide.”

Source www.intercargo.org


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