A brewing humanitarian crisis out at sea has prompted a call to action from over 300 companies and organisations to end the unprecedented crew change crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leading names in shipowning such as AP Moller-Maersk, BW, Cosco, MISC, NYK, Euronav, CMA CGM, as well as charterers like BP, Shell, Cargill, Trafigura, Vale have come together to sign the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change.
“We are witnessing a humanitarian crisis at sea. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, seafarers have kept the world supplied with food, energy and other vital goods, with no line of sight of when to go home to their families. They have become hostage of the situation and unable to disembark from their ships. Yet, we can put an end to the crew change crisis without any risk to the general public health,” said Jeremy Nixon, CEO of ONE.
More than 300 companies and organisations have recognised they have a shared responsibility based on their roles across the entire maritime value chain and beyond.
The Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change defines four main actions to facilitate crew changes and keep global supply chains functioning. They include recognising seafarers as key workers and giving them priority access to COVID-19 vaccines; establishing and implementing gold standard health protocols based on existing best practices; increasing collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes; ensuring air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers.
Today, hundreds of thousands of seafarers across the globe have been left stranded working onboard ships beyond their expiry of their initial contracts and are unable to be relieved since the outbreak of COVID-19.
“Seafarers are the unacceptable collateral damage on the war on COVID-19 and this must stop. If we want to maintain global trade seafarers must not be put to the back of the vaccine queue. You can’t inject a global population without the shipping industry and most importantly our seafarers,” said Guy Platten, secretary-general of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).
Fatigue after long periods at sea has significant consequences on the physical and mental wellbeing of seafarers. It also increases the risk of maritime incidents and environmental disasters, and poses a threat to the integrity of maritime supply chains, which carry 90% of global trade.
Despite significant efforts by international oranisations, unions, companies and some governments to resolve the crew change crisis, the situation is becoming worse as governments bring in more travel bans in response to the new strains of the virus.
A number of key issues leave this critical situation unresolved: national authorities around the world continue to see crew changes and international travel as a COVID-19 risk; high quality health protocols are not being consistently implemented by ship operators; and the disruption of international air travel has reduced the number of flights between traditional crew change hubs and major seafaring nations.
The Neptune Declaration has been developed by a taskforce of stakeholders from across the maritime value chain including A. M. Nomikos, Cargill, Dorian LPG, GasLog, Global Maritime Forum, ICS, International Maritime Employers’ Council, International Transport Workers’ Federation, ONE, Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Sustainable Shipping Initiative, Synergy Group, V. Group, and World Economic Forum.