The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has teamed up with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to jointly call on governments to take urgent action to facilitate ship crew change flights for seafarers.
Specifically, the ICS and IATA are calling on all governments to designate a specific and limited number of crew change airports for the safe movement and repatriation of crew.
Each month, about 100,000 seafarers are subject to crew change, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in seafarers being stranded onboard ships almost indefinitely as government-imposed travel restrictions have made it nearly impossible for them to return home, resulting in serious safety and mental health issues, according to shipping experts.
“Seafarers are unsung heroes who everyday throughout this COVID-19 crisis are going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that countries are kept supplied with the goods they need. We are working with the airlines to come forward with solutions. We now need governments to support our seafarers and facilitate safe passage for them to get home to loved ones and be replaced by crew members ready to keep supply chains open,” said ICS Secretary General, Guy Platten.
Priority airports should include those close to major shipping lanes which also have direct air connections to principal seafarer countries of residence, such as China, India and the Philippines as well as destinations in western and eastern Europe, the ICS and IATA said.
Immigration and health screening protocols are also hampering the ability of merchant ships to conduct vitally necessary crew changes.
“Airlines have been required to cut passenger services in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19. But if governments identify airports that seafarers can use for crew changes and make appropriate adjustments to current health and immigration protocols, airlines can help keep global logistics moving,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA Director General and CEO.