World Economic Forum joins global calls for solution to crew changeover crisis

Hamburg, Germany - May 10, 2011: A worker is assisting the uploading of containers on a container ship at a dock at the Container Terminal Altenwerder in Hamburg, Germany.

The World Economic Forum has joined the list of institutions and maritime stakeholders urging governments to find a resolution to the crew changeover crisis.

In an article published online, the World Economic Forum described the issues of crews being prevented from disembarking from vessels as “a “humanitarian crisis” and insisted “global action” is needed to end it.

Crew changes were suspended in March as the COVID-19 pandemic spread rapidly across the world in what was devised as a short-term solution to the pandemic, and also to minimise disruption to the supply chain.

Consequently, one in six of approximately one million crew members worldwide are unable to disembark due to border closures and stringent travel restrictions.

In some instances seafarers have been at sea for more than a year, according to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), with workers being unable to see their families as they work far beyond their contracts.

This is in breach of ILO’s 2006 Maritime Labour Convention, which limits seafarer contracts to a maximum of 11 months. Such conditions not only have a severely detrimental effect on workers’ physical and mental health but it also makes hazards and accidents more likely.

“The transport industry’s imperative is keeping people safe, while keeping food and other goods moving in service to society,” says Margi Van Gogh, the World Economic Forum’s Head of Supply Chain and Transport Industries, also coordinating the Industry Action Group with a cohort of CEOs.

“Cohesive action at a global level is needed to keep fatigued seafarers safe – protecting the lives and livelihoods of these men and women who keep the fragile, interconnected global supply system functioning is the best way we can now serve those who serve us,” said Van Gogh.

The article comes as several institutions come together to “chart a way through the crisis”.

A.P. Moeller-Maersk (Maersk) in a statement to Port Technology International (PTI) last week urged “constructive dialogue” between stakeholders and governments to protect workers’ welfare.

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