IMO, ILO Call for Restoring Crew Changes

File image courtesy IMO

Published May 27, 2020 2:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

In a joint statement released Tuesday, the IMO, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) called on member states to designate mariners and air transport personnel as "key workers." At least 200,000 seafarers are currently stranded on board because interntional travel restrictions have made crew change and repatriation nearly impossible, according to the International Chamber of Shipping. 

"For humanitarian reasons - and the need to comply with international safety and employment regulations - crew changes cannot be postponed indefinitely," the agencies wrote. 

To facilitate crew changes, the IMO, ILO and ICAO asked member states to designate seafarers, fishermen, offshore energy workers and aviation personnel as "key workers" providing an essential service, regardless of their nationality. This should enable appropriate exemptions from national travel restrictions in order to facilitate crew change movements on the dock and at the airport. Merchant mariners' papers and employment agreements should be satisfactory evidence of seafarers' special status for national-level authorities, and should allow seafarers the right to disembark for repatriation flights. 

The letter comes after pressure from maritime industry and labor organizations, notably the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF). Shipping representatives have cautioned that extended, indefinite seafarer rotations are neither sustainable nor just. 

“There are now over 200,000 seafarers onboard vessels worldwide who have completed their contractual tour of duty, but have been prevented from returning home. Many of these seafarers will be experiencing adverse effects on their mental health and reduced ability to safely perform their roles in the face of increasing fatigue," ICS and ITF wrote. "Additionally, stringent restrictions imposed by many countries, including denial of shore leave and access to essential medical assistance, is contributing to fatigue and exhaustion. We are concerned about suicide and self-harm amongst this vulnerable population of workers.”