Hundreds of thousands of seafarers from across the globe have been left stranded working aboard ships beyond the expiry of their initial contracts and are unable to be relieved since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. 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 organizations, unions, companies and some governments to resolve this untenable crew change crisis we are starting to see the situation getting worse as governments bring in more travel bans in response to the new strains of the Covid-19 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.
‘We are witnessing a humanitarian crisis at sea. Throughout the 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,’ says Jeremy Nixon, CEO of ONE.
More than 300 companies and organisations recognise that they have a shared responsibility based on their roles across the entire maritime value chain, and beyond, to ensure that the crew change crisis is resolved as soon as possible. They have signed the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew that defines four main actions to facilitate crew changes and keep global supply chains functioning.
‘Seafarers play a significant role in the global race to halt the coronavirus pandemic by providing critical medical medical supplies to the world’s population, particularly in developing economies. They are crucial to millions of peoples’ wellbeing. We call on our peers, government bodies and other stakeholders to join us in our efforts to ensure that the rights and wellbeing of the frontline workers of global supply chains are respected,’ says Graham Westgarth, Chairman of V. Group.
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, International Chamber of Shipping, International Maritime Employers’ Council, International Transport Workers’ Federation, ONE, Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Sustainable Shipping Initiative, Synergy Group, V. Group, and World Economic Forum.