Neptune declaration on the welfare of seafarers and crew change
Covid-19 has had an impact on the daily lives and well-being of seafarers in unprecedented ways, causing a humanitarian crisis. Recognizing that they have a shared responsibility to resolve the crew change crisis, more than 600 companies and organizations have signed the Neptune Declaration, which outlines the main actions to be taken to resolve the crisis.
Overcoming the seafarer’s crisis: allowing crew changes and repatriation
Despite the significant efforts of international organizations, governments, industry associations, trade unions, NGOs and individual companies, including the adoption on 1 December 2020 by the UN General Assembly of a resolution on international cooperation to address the challenges faced by seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to support global supply chains, the problem is still far from solved.
This is not an acceptable way to treat seafarers, who are the front-line workers in the maritime industry who carry 90% of world trade. Fatigue after prolonged periods at sea has a significant impact on the physical health and mental well-being of seafarers. It also increases the risk of maritime incidents and environmental disasters and poses a broader threat to the integrity of global supply chains, which depend on safe and reliable shipping.
That is why a stakeholder working group across the maritime value chain has identified the following key issues to prevent crew changes, which require urgent action:
While high-quality health protocols have been adopted internationally, they have not been consistently implemented in practice. This has led authorities to perceive seafarers as a Covid-19 risk, which has limited the chances of crew changes.
The implementation of high-quality crew change protocols will reduce the economic risk of disrupted supply chains but will lead to increased short-term costs.
The disruption of international air travel has reduced the number of flights, leading to connectivity problems between the major crew change centers and the major maritime nations, which has complicated crew changes.
Taking steps to fulfil shared responsibility
The signatories of the Neptune Declaration recognize that they have a shared responsibility to ensure that the current crew change crisis is resolved as soon as possible and to use the lessons of the crisis as an opportunity to build a more resilient supply chain.
The most effective way to address the challenge of crew change and to build a more resilient maritime logistics chain is by working together across the entire value chain with industry stakeholders, organizations and governments, to implement solutions that work in practice.
The signatories commit to take action to resolve the crew change crisis, based on their position and role in the value chain, thereby ensuring the rights and well-being of seafarers who support global supply chains. They call on their peers and other stakeholders, relevant government agencies, to join in these efforts.
To make tangible improvements, the following actions must be implemented:
- Recognizing seafarers as key workers and giving them priority access to Covid-19 vaccines
All Governments should recognize seafarers as key workers in accordance with the United Nations General Assembly resolution adopted on 1 December 2020 and facilitate the transition of seafarers across borders based on internationally agreed high-quality health protocols.
Governments and other stakeholders should work together with the maritime industry to ensure that seafarers, regardless of nationality, have priority access to Covid vaccines-19 along with other key health workers and professionals in recognition of their critical role in global supply chains and trade.
This should include the development of protocols to ensure that vaccines are properly certified and effectively administered to seafarers, as well as the establishment of a standardized format for health passes with tamper-proof information on vaccination and the state of testing to facilitate crew changes.
- Establish and implement gold standard health protocols based on existing best practices
The maritime industry and governments must implement the Recommended Framework of Protocols to ensure safe changes in ship crew and travel during the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), which has been recognized by the International Maritime Organization.
To minimize the risk of Covid-19, and to build confidence that crew changes can be carried out safely and thus ensure that the measures taken can be universally accepted, the implementation of the Framework of Protocols should be based at the highest possible level. The STAR crew change protocols are based on existing best practices and are therefore recommended for adoption throughout the industry.
- Increase cooperation between vessel operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes.
Facilitating crew changes based on high quality health protocols is a shared responsibility that will create benefits for all by minimizing the risk of Covid-spread19 on ships, minimize the risk of interruptions in global supply chains, while contributing to maritime safety and the welfare of seafarers.
Shipowners and charterers should share relevant information transparently and work together to ensure that the necessary crew changes can be carried out with the least possible impact in terms of costs and delays. The owner should notify the charterer as far in advance as possible of the planned crew changes, while the charterer should make every reasonable effort to adapt to crew changes, even if the ship must make a reasonable deviation.
No charter party should contain clauses preventing the necessary crew changes from taking place, since the aggregate effect of such clauses could be a serious obstacle to the safe operation of maritime trade and the protection of the welfare and rights of seafarers.
By implementing high-quality health protocols, boat owners can reduce the risk of disruption of trade due to the Covid-19, which also generates benefits for charterers. These benefits should be reflected in charter decisions to create incentives for shipowners to implement high-quality health protocols and to be transparent about the actions taken and the costs incurred.
- Ensuring air connectivity between key maritime centers for seafarers
The aviation industry must work together with the maritime industry to ensure that air transport capacity is established between major crew change centers and maritime nations.
In addition, the aviation and maritime industries, as well as Governments, with the participation of all relevant ministries and agencies, should work together to establish a universally accepted and harmonized framework of standards for the validation of reliable health data for seafarers in order to facilitate border crossing and ensure the long-term resilience of air connectivity.
IMO welcomes the Neptune Declaration on Seafarers
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has welcomed the industry-led Neptune Declaration calling for seafarers to be designated as essential workers and for cooperation to end the crisis of crew change, which is putting seafarers in a desperate situation and threatening the safety of shipping and world trade. Hundreds of thousands of seafarers around the world are unable to leave their ships, while hundreds of thousands of others cannot join them because of travel restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am pleased to see the industry coming together in this way under the Neptune Declaration to support ways to resolve the crew change crisis. This largely reflects the calls made by the IMO, its sister entities of the UN and, more recently, the UN General Assembly, in its recent resolution on seafarers», Mr. Lim. «I encourage more companies to participate, including charterers, and show their support to our seafarers».
To date, the Secretary-General of IMO has received 53 notifications from Member States that have designated seafarers as essential workers and one from an Associate Member. More Governments are urged to designate seafarers as essential workers. (See the most recent list here).
The IMO’s global maritime theme for 2021, «Seafarers: at the heart of the future of shipping», also stands out. The choice of the slogan recognizes the efforts of seafarers who have shown enormous strength and perseverance in sustaining world trade in the current unprecedented situation in which the world finds itself.
See the original note at: https://www.imo.org/
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