IMO appeals to Governments to take action on crew change crisis

Mokpo, South Korea - August 31 2017: Docking with the ferry from Jeju at Mokpo harbor after sunset

IMO Member States meeting during a digital session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) have called on all Governments to take urgent action to resolve the humanitarian and safety crisis faced by the international shipping community as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Committee adopted a resolution on Recommended action to facilitate ship crew change, access to medical care and seafarer travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, which urges specific action to address the issue, including designating seafarers as key workers with access to the necessary safe travel arrangements. 

Speaking at the close of the session on 21 September, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said, “This resolution should help ensure integrity of employment and human rights of seafarers and, consequentially, minimize disruptions to global trade, supply chains, efficient operation of maritime transport and ensure the continued movement of food and livestock, products and essential goods by sea.”

“Seafarers cannot remain at sea indefinitely, in addition to the humanitarian crisis that has been caused by keeping them effectively trapped on their vessels, the safety issues that arise from overly fatigued and mentally exhausted seafarers to continue operating vessels are a matter of great concern. If the crew change crisis is not resolved, ships will no longer be able to operate safely,” Lim said.

Lim also called on all Governments to consider raising the issue of seafarers and the crew change crisis during the high-level week of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, beginning on 22 September 2020.

“We must resolve this global crew change crisis as soon as possible, it is now time to row together, it is time for action,” Lim said.

More than 300,000 seafarers are currently stranded on board ships, with some now having been working for more than 17 months at sea, without a break.

A further 300,000 workers are unable to join ships and potentially face unemployment due to Government-imposed travel restrictions and quarantine measures in different parts of the world. The crisis threatens the well-being of seafarers and puts navigational safety in peril. 

Business leaders are warning that the seafarer crisis could soon interrupt normal flows of international trade, since more than 80% of goods including food, fuel, medical supplies are transported by sea. 

MSC resolution – Recommended action to facilitate ship crew change, access to medical care and seafarer travel during the COVID-19 pandemic

The resolution expresses deep concern about the significant challenges being faced by the global shipping community to effect crew changes and repatriation of seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, recognizing the crucial role of seafarers in supplying vital goods.   

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