Intercargo, an organisation that represents dry bulk shipowners, called on the industry to recognise the importance of crew changes for seafarers in light of the ongoing pandemic
Intercargo chairman Dimitris Fafalios said crew change must be a top priority. In the absence of efficient crew changes, he said “the supply chain would break down, leading to basic product shortages and greater hardships for people around the world”.
Mr Fafalios echoed IMO’s opinion that seafarers are among the world’s key workers adding, “All maritime nations, ports and airports should, as a matter of urgency, permit the travel in/out and sign-on/off of seafarers with the necessary safety procedures allowing them to join from and repatriate to their countries of residence with seafarer’s documents and without visas, while the consulates are closed in the seafarers’ countries of residence.
The organisation said there are 300,000 seafarers in the bulk carrier industry alone and Intercargo vice chairman Jay K Pillai pointed out some seafarers have served their 4-9-month tour of duty but are unable to be relieved of duty even after serving 12 months or longer on board vessels.
“Maritime authorities of port states should join with their immigration departments to empathise with crews, our unsung heroes at sea, treat them as key workers as requested by the IMO Secretary General and permit crew change without undue restrictions in their ports to ensure safety at sea and of their territorial waters.”
The pandemic has left an estimated 1.6M seafarers stranded onshore or unable to leave their vessels. In late
March, IMO issued a circular suggesting governments recognise seafarers as ‘key workers’ thus gaining them certain travel exemptions. This week IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim reiterated the same when sending a personal message to seafarers and stressed IMO is working with governments, trade unions and other UN agencies to try and find a solution to the problem.
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