A new pledge signed by more than 300 maritime industry and human rights leaders, including the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), Shell and Rio Tinto, will aim to resolve the global crew change crisis which has seen hundreds of thousands of seafarers unable to return home throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change calls on governments to recognise seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to COVID-19 vaccines, establish gold standard health protocols and increase collaboration between ship operators to facilitate crew changes.
Furthermore, the declaration has also called on lawmakers to ensure air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers.
The International Workers’ Federation (ITF) General Secretary Stephen Cotton welcomed the commitments made by the 327 signatories.
““The ITF welcomes the commitment from shipowners, charterers, investors, NGOs and industry groups in signing the Neptune Declaration, and now there is an expectation that words are turned into action,” Cotton said.
“With the rise of new variants of Covid, we are sadly seeing governments backsliding and bringing in more restrictions.
Right now is the time for every CEO, every board member, of every company that relies on global shipping, to demand that governments don’t forget the key workers driving their economies and unblock their borders to seafarers before this crisis gets worse.”
“Companies must now be held to account. This means no more charter parties with ‘no crew change’ clauses: charterers must work with shipowners to facilitate crew changes.
“This means investors asking the companies they own and deal with what the companies are doing to address the crisis. And this means asking why any company in the industry didn’t sign this declaration.
In a statement, MSC CEO Soren Toft also welcomed the development.
“As we move in to the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and well-being of our seafarers is at the top of our minds.
“The urgent matter of facilitating seafarer repatriations and crew changes is a vital one that needs immediate attention.
“On top of MSC’s efforts last year to bring the critical issue of crew changes to the attention of governments, we believe it is more important than ever to appreciate the valuable contribution that seafarers bring to the global economy and to ensure that these people are recognised as key workers.
“Seafarers and shipping have kept the world moving amid COVID-19 lockdowns and it is imperative that governments give full support to alleviate the crewing crisis and keep trade flowing unhindered.”