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600,000 seafarers now snared in crew change crisis: ITF

600,000 seafarers now snared in crew change crisis: ITF
Sam Chambers July 17, 2020

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) now estimates that there are approximately 300,000 seafarers trapped working aboard ships due to the crew change crisis caused by Covid-19 border and travel restrictions, and an equal number of unemployed seafarers waiting to join them who are ashore.

“300,000 seafarers are trapped working aboard these vessels, and another 300,000 are facing financial ruin at home, desperate to relieve these ships and start earning wages again. Governments are the biggest barrier to resolving the growing crew change crisis,” said ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton, adding: “Seafarers and their unions are deeply concerned about the risk to life, property and the environment as the chances of a major catastrophe or catastrophes rises daily. Government’s must act before we see more people die, or worse – a major maritime disaster. Urgent action is required,”

Chair of the ITF Seafarers Section, Dave Heindel, said that globally governments are not doing near what is needed and some governments have even gone backwards.

“It is not acceptable that some countries have withdrawn shore leave for seafarers or began restricting the number of people allowed to enter their borders each day. Those countries that rely on maritime trade, like Australia and Russia – must start pulling their weight on this issue,” Heindel said.

The ITF stressed yesterday it will be calling out any attempts to intimidate or blacklist seafarers for either exercising their human right to stop working and be repatriated once their contract has finished.

More than two months since the International Maritime Organization (IMO) endorsed a 12-step set of protocols to ensure safe crew changes and eight days on from the UK-convened international crew change summit there are still just 15 countries that have fully opened to crew movements, according to the latest data amassed today by global port agent Inchcape Shipping Services, which has been running a crew change tracker, accessible here (