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European ports urged to facilitate crew changes at all ports

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The European Seaports Organization (ESPO) and the Federation of European Private Port Companies and Terminals (FEPORT) have welcomed the European Commission’s (EC) Green Lanes border crossing concept and have urged member states to take heed of the programme.

It is essential that Member States work in coordination to facilitate the movement of crew and seafarers across land borders.

However, neither technically nor economically is it feasible to restrict crew changes to only a select group of main ports, a statement from ESPO and FEPORT notes. This is what the Green Lane concept tends to suggest.

The EC Green Lanes concept was launched on 23 March as an effort to offer new practical advice on how to implement its Guidelines for border management, in order to keep freight moving across the EU during the current pandemic.

Port functionality

It is notable that since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis all European ports have been fully operational and continue to fulfil their role in the supply chain.

To ensure the continuity of the supply chain, European ports rely on the smooth functioning and mobilisation of all port stakeholders and on the availability and engagement of many transport workers, both on shore and at sea.

The possibility for ship crews to embark on a ship, to return home or be repositioned after a long period at sea is a priority in that respect.

All ports to facilitate crew changes

However, it is essential for the functioning of European logistics chains that Member States should facilitate crew changes in all of their seaports.

Shipping lines should also liaise with Member States and airports in order to ensure that the necessary flights home for the ship crews can be arranged, both within the EU and to third countries.

“While fully recognising the EC’s efforts to ensure the continuity of maritime transport and the wellbeing of everyone involved in these operations, European ports oppose the EC proposal requesting Member States to designate specific ports where crew changes are possible,” noted Isabelle Ryckbost, Secretary General ESPO.

“Today all European ports are really doing their utmost to remain operational and play their role as critical nodes in the supply chain and they continue to be engines of growth for their region.

“A top-down selection of certain ports for the purpose of crew changes might have serious impacts on some ports and port businesses and may unnecessarily disrupt a supply chain which is already under pressure. If crew changes and transfers can be facilitated from and to one port in the country, they can be facilitated in all ports. This issue should be solved as quickly as possible, but must not lead to a top-down reshuffle of port calls in Europe.

The Green Lanes concept, combined with a better coordination between Member States is the most effective solution”, commented Ryckbost.

“We believe that an initiative like Green Lanes is definitely useful and supports our efforts but would have preferred that the EU Commission calls on Member States to facilitate crew changes in any port where it is possible”, added Lamia Kerdjoudj-Belkaid, Secretary General of FEPORT.

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