IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim has spoken out against ’no crew change’ clauses in charterparties, pointing out that such clauses contribute to the ongoing seafarer crew change crisis and undermine the efforts undertaken to resolve the problem
IMO said its Seafarer Crisis Action Team has become aware that some charterers now demand the insertion of a no crew change clause that states no crew changes can occur while the charterer’s cargo is on board – hence not allowing the ship to deviate to ports where crew changes could take place.
In a statement issued via circular letter and supported by the International Labour Organization, Mr Lim called upon all charterers to refrain from requesting to include no crew change clauses in charterparties and further called upon shipowners and operators to reject them if they are demanded.
“Such clauses exacerbate the mental and physical fatigue among exhausted seafarers, undermine compliance with the provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, and further threaten the safety of navigation”, said Mr Lim, adding that alternative contractual clauses that do allow for crew changes during the pandemic are available and should be used.
He added, “Resolving the crew change crisis requires the best efforts of all stakeholders. Eliminating the use of no crew change clauses is just one of those efforts.” Mr Lim insisted that “policies or practices that prevent or inhibit safe, regular crew changes should be revised or eliminated.”
International organisations made statements at the latest meeting of IMO’s Legal Committee, LEG 107, to condemn the use of no crew change clauses in charterparties. The Committee invited submissions on the matter to its 108th session, scheduled to take place in July 2021.
Since the beginning of the repatriation crisis caused by the global pandemic, hundreds of thousands of seafarers have either remained stranded on board ships well beyond the expiration of their employment agreements or remain unable to join ships, and as a result find themselves unable to begin their contracts and earn a living.
Mr Lim said the situation continues to constitute a humanitarian crisis that threatens seafarer health, navigational safety and the global supply chain.
As of December 2020, 46 IMO member states and one associate member (Hong Kong) have designated seafarers as ‘key workers’ to exempt them from specific Covid-19 related travel restrictions, allowing them to travel between their country of residence and ships, and to be repatriated at the end of their contracts.
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