Global industry and human rights leaders join forces to resolve humanitarian crisis on the world’s oceans
Over 300 world-leading companies have signed the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change, which seeks for a worldwide call to action to end the unprecedented crew change crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Hundreds of thousands of seafarers from across the globe have been left stranded working aboard ships beyond the expiry of their initial contracts and have been unable to be relieved since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Fatigue has had major consequences on the physical and mental wellbeing of seafarers, and has increased the risk of maritime incidents and environmental disasters, posing 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, the situation has been worsened by governments bringing in more travel bans in response to the new strains of the COVID-19 virus, and a number of key issues have left this critical situation unresolved.
The Declaration defines four main actions to facilitate crew changes and keep global supply chains functioning: recognising seafarers as key workers and giving them access to COVID-19 vaccines; establishing and implementing a gold standard health protocol based on existing best practices; increasing collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes; and ensuring air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers.
Crew changes have been significantly hindered due to the outbreak of COVID-19, which is has seen national authorities around the world view maritime crew and international travel as high-risk, and has caused widespread disruption to international air travel with a reduction in the number of flights between traditional crew change hubs and major seafaring nations.
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.
Speaking of the Declaration, Mark O’Neil, President of InterManager, said: “This is a huge step forward for seafarers and the maritime community, and InterManager are proud to be involved in putting an end to this humanitarian crisis.
“Seafarers are fundamental in the global supply chain, and we have a shared responsibility across the entire maritime value chain to resolve this crisis as soon as possible. It’s promising to have so many global industry and human rights leaders involved in these efforts, and that steps toward ending the crew change crisis are being giving such weighted leverage.”
Under normal circumstances, the International Chamber of Shipping estimates that around 100,000 seafarers are rotated every month, with 50,000 disembarking and 50,000 embarking ships to comply with relevant international maritime regulations, governing safe working hours and crew welfare.
At the height of the crew change crisis in the autumn of 2020, the UN International Maritime Organization estimated that around 400,000 seafarers were on their ships beyond the expiry of their contract, while another 400,000 were unable to get to work.
Graham Westgarth, Chairman of V. Group, added: “Seafarers play a significant role in the global race to halt the coronavirus pandemic by providing critical 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.”