The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) have written an open letter to leading United Nations organisations calling for crew changes to be facilitated during the COVID-19 pandemic that is sweeping the world.
It urges governments to keep maritime trade moving as the coronavirus pandemic continues – arguing that mariners now need to be recognised as 'international key workers’.
The letter has been send to the heads of the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), UN International Maritime Organization (IMO), UN Conference on Trade and Development, and World Health Organization (WHO).
“As the COVID-19 pandemic takes hold, it is important for the world’s governments to fully understand that 90% of global trade is transported by commercial shipping, which moves the world’s food, energy and raw materials – including vital medical supplies,” states the letter.
“Every month, 100,000 seafarers need to be changed over from the ships which they operate in order to comply with relevant international maritime regulations, governing safe working hours and crew welfare, so that they can continue to transport global trade safely.
“In view of their vital role during the global pandemic, we suggest that professional seafarers, regardless of nationality, should be treated as any other international ‘key workers’, such as airline crew and medical personnel.
“As such, they should be afforded special consideration and – notwithstanding the need to comply with emergency health protocols – treated with pragmatism and understanding when seeking to travel to and from their ships.
“We therefore call on your organisations to highlight the critical importance of this issue with the governments of your member states.
“We request, as a matter of urgency, that this topic be added to the agenda of appropriate high level meetings, and that national authorities in your organisations’ member states should be encouraged to engage immediately with their national ship owners’ association and national seafarers’ union, in order to find rapid solutions to this serious problem which otherwise risks impeding global efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The letter is signed by Guy Platten, secretary general, International Chamber of Shipping, and Stephen Cotton, secretary general, International Transport Workers’ Federation.