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Shipping industry needs governments help to resolve crew change crisis: ICS

Shipping industry needs governments help to resolve crew change crisis: ICS
Marcus Hand | Sep 25, 2020

With the crew change crisis now affecting an estimated 800,000 seafarers the International Chamber Shipping warned a UN event a failure to resolve the situation could lead to a global trade logjam.

Speaking at the 75th UN General Assembly High-Level Side Event on maritime crew changes Guy Platten, secretary general of the ICS, said it was, “An issue that if not resolved has the potential to disrupt supply chains and increase costs for all countries at a time when they can least afford it. Shipping transports 7 trillion dollars’ worth of cargo each year. Without resolution we could start to see a logjam which will impact each and every country in their ability to trade globally.

“The shipping industry is very pragmatic, and we are adept at finding solutions however this is one issue we absolutely cannot resolve without the help of governments,” Platten stated.

Related: Time for tough talking on crew change

While shipowners and managers have dedicated huge resources to trying to facilitate crew change wherever in the world it is possible the problem continues to grow with some seafarers now having served over 17 months onboard.

“We as employers have been doing all we can, often going to extraordinary efforts to undertake crew changes where possible and diverting ships thousands of miles to enable changes to take place, but it is not enough and seafarers cannot extend their tours of duty indefinitely - the situation is unsustainable and at breaking point,” he said.

Related: IMO sec-gen call for action on crew change crisis ahead of UN General Assembly

The industry and its seafarers therefore need the help of governments to resolve the situation by declaring ship crews “key workers” and providing exemptions from Covid-19 travel restrictions.

“However, seafarers need the help of governments and the international community. We remain in a situation where seafarers are still on board many months over the end of their original service periods, with no real end to their plight or the resolution of the crew change crisis in sight due to ongoing travel and other restrictions imposed by governments,” Platten stated.

“We know by you being here today that you understand the issue however the main obstacle to resolving this crisis is that many border protection and health authorities still lack understanding of the essential role of seafarers in the flow of global trade.

“The evidence is clear, the risk presented by cargo ships and crew travel is relatively low, especially given the health protection measures being taken by our industry. We have no wish whatsoever to bring infection on board our ships – not only is that disastrous for the crew on board but it also costs business.”