AP Møller–Mærsk announced that seven crew members from the container ship Rhine Maersk have been successfully repatriated to their home countries from Panama
News of the successful repatriations comes amid ongoing uncertainty in crew changes suffered by thousands of seafarers still unable to return home after months aboard vessels.
Rhine Mærsk’s seven crew members were transported from the Panama Canal to flights which took them to Amsterdam and Copenhagen. From there, according to Mærsk, they were to take connecting flights to their home countries.
Six new crew arrived by air, to sign on Rhine Mærsk. Mærsk worked with the Maritime Authority of Panama (PMA) to ensure strict safety protocols were followed.
Mærsk head of Americas marine Pavan Chhabra said "Our colleagues at sea play a central role in serving our customers and keeping supply chains moving. I am pleased to see that our efforts in engaging with the authorities in regard to crew changes is paying off. Our sincere thanks go out to the Panamanian authorities and the colleagues/staff involved in Mærsk Panama and Americas Liner Operation Cluster in achieving this key milestone."
Mærsk has echoed IMO’s call for governments to establish procedures to help thousands of seafarers stranded as a result of the pandemic to return home.
The company said “The situation as it stands is not tenable. World nations and especially port states must stand up and take responsibility to support and co-operate so that crew changes happen, preventing a humanitarian world crisis with potential consequences for safety at sea.”
Mærsk chief executive Latin America Lars Nielsen said "We need everyone involved to stay focused and engaged in ensuring this practice can continue as the safety of our colleagues is and will always be our main priority.”
This is the second repatriation of a crew from Panama and follows the repatriation of 13 crew members from the container ship San Pasley. Workers across other shipping sectors have also been repatriated, with V.Group reporting in June it had repatriated more than 7,000 since the start of the pandemic.
Also in June, following the expiration of an industry-wide agreement allowing emergency extensions to labour contracts, the PMA issued a notice that advised that seafarer contracts be extended by a further three months. The notice received criticism from the General Secretary of seafarers’ union Nautilus International.