ITF, IMEC donate $0.5m to Singapore crew change fund

Singapore permits crew changes in ‘special circumstances’ 


The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC) have contributed $500,000 to the Singapore Shipping Tripartite Alliance Resilience (SG-STAR) Fund to support countries that adopt best practices for crew change.

The fund is the first global tripartite initiative bringing together like-minded international partners from the industry, unions, and government to facilitate safe crew changes.

This adds to the S$1 million SG-STAR Fund established by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), Singapore Shipping Association (SSA), Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union (SMOU), and Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS) back in August 2020.

The total fund now amounts to approximately $1.2 million.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) will lend support to the SG-STAR Fund including technical expertise in shipping.

The fund, based in Singapore, will be disbursed for use upstream in countries where seafarers come from.

Six months into the pandemic 300,000 seafarers are stuck at sea, some of them for 17 months, 6 months longer than allowed under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). Around 300,000 more seafarers are pending to sign onto ships, and start earning their salaries.

Fatigue, physical and mental strain seafarers are faced with are jeopardizing their ability to perform their work, and rightly so, posing a danger to them, the ships, the marine environment, and global supply chains.

ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton said the SG-STAR Fund has the potential to support practical solutions to reduce the severity of the crew change crisis for the world’s 1.4 million seafarers.

“For the world’s seafarers, they need practical solutions now, not tomorrow, to end this humanitarian crisis and get seafarers to and from ships in a safe manner. This joint initiative, working with tripartite partners to promote practical solutions to the crew change crisis, will be key to breaking the current deadlock.

“We need to see progress especially on ways seafarers can show authorities and employers their negative COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test results from verified medical institutions, so that quarantine times can be reduced on board and while waiting to join vessels,” said Cotton.

“The ILO warmly welcomes the contributions from the ITF, IMEC and ICS to the SG-STAR Fund which not only provides much-needed resources but confirms the tripartite and truly global reach of the initiative. This is exactly the type of response that we need to the dramatic and worldwide problems of crew changes,” said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.

Following the signing of the letter of intent for the SG-STAR Fund, a task force has been formed to work with stakeholders on solutions for safe crew change.

Led by SSA Council Member and Chair of SSA Services Committee, Nitin Mathur, with initial members from MPA, SMOU and SOS, the task force will first work with seafarer supplying countries such as the Philippines and India.

The work will focus on initiatives such as the accreditation of quarantine and isolation facilities, COVID-19 PCR testing certification, “white-listing” of clinics for PCR testing, digital solutions for tracking crew change, and interactive training sessions for crew to help them understand crew change procedures and guidelines.

“The SG-STAR Fund initiated by the tripartite partners in Singapore aims to help support ship crew supplying nations enhance facilities and capabilities to establish safe and scalable “bubbles” or “corridors” to enable crew change – from the time to/from home country or country of origin, to the country where the crew joins the ship, as well as safe holding facilities at the home/origin country and the country where the crew change occurs,” said SSA President Caroline Yang.