UK and UN Will Host First Summit to Address Challenges of Crew Changes

UK to host summit to explore issues of crew change in COVID-19
Port of Southampton (file photo)

Published Jun 26, 2020 6:08 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.K. Government joined in the worldwide efforts to mark the Day of the Seafarer and recognize the vital contribution of seafarers to keep the global economy function. Contributing to the ongoing dialogue to recognize the challenges and better support seafarers, the U.K. announced that it will host the first international summit on the impact of COVID-19 on crew bringing together UN, political, and business leaders from across the globe.

Led by U.K. Maritime Minister Kelly Tolhurst, the event will take place virtually next month and will be an opportunity to reflect on the impact of the pandemic on the global shipping industry, and what governments and industry must do to protect the welfare of crew workers around the world. IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim will participate in the event highlighting the humanitarian need to safeguard workers across the seas and states’ duties to repatriate workers swiftly.

“Seafarers have worked tirelessly during this pandemic to ensure people across the globe can access the essential food, medicine, and supplies we all need, but thousands have been left with no way of coming ashore when faced with border restrictions,” said Tolhurst. “I hope that this meeting will be a reminder of the international collaboration required by all states to bring people home.”

Due to the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on countries around the globe, with many shutting down borders, it is now estimated there are more than 1.2 million seafarers at sea at any one time and currently 200,000 seafarers due to change over. Maritime Minister Tolhurst, estimated that there are up to 2,000 seafarers from the U.K. who are due to leave their vessels while also pointing out that more than 7,000 cruise ship workers stuck in the U.K. since the pandemic began have now been repatriated.

Further, in support of the shipping industry, the U.K. has remained open for seafarers to come and either stay on vessels, go ashore, take shore leave or be repatriated, abiding by Public Health England requirements and social distancing.

“This meeting, set up by the U.K. Maritime Minister, is a unique collaboration between the U.K. government, UN through the IMO, ICS and key international trade association to help all countries pull together to ensure that crew workers – regardless of nationality – are repatriated as swiftly as possible,” said Guy Platten, Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). “The solutions do not need money. They do not even need complicated negotiations, this is simple. The leadership provided by the U.K. to cut through this red tape is just the sort of initiative that is needed to free the thousands of seafarers who are trapped onboard ships across the world.”