May 19th 2020

With more than 150,000 seafarers around the world blocked aboard their ships—in some cases for more than a year–the pandemic-induced halt to crew change poses grave risks to shipmasters, mariners, employers, insurers, the environment and the general public.

A coalition of industry leaders–including the International Maritime Organization, the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the International Shipmasters Association–are calling on the world’s governments to take immediate action to allow crew changes to resume.

Although G20 trade and investment ministers at their March 30 meeting had pledged to ensure the smooth operation of global supply chains and find ways for logistics networks via air, sea and land to remain open, “it appears that little has been done,” IFSMA says.

In April, a broad cross section of global maritime industry associations developed protocols for safe ship crew change and travel during the pandemic.

The IMO transmitted the protocols—accompanied by an urgent call that they be implemented without delay–to all IMO member states, the United Nations and key international organizations.

But there has been no sign of progress.

Now, IFSMA has issued an open letter urging world governments to implement the crew change protocols without delay.

IFSMA has asked MM&P and all other affiliate shipmaster associations worldwide to transmit the letter to their national governments.

“Governments must act now to avoid personal injury and mental breakdown of seafarers and significantly increased risk of accidents and the consequential danger to life and damage to the environment,” the International Federation of Shipmasters Associations wrote.

“There are an estimated 150,000 seafarers in urgent need of being relieved by refreshed crew.”

“With a crew that is suffering from fatigue, ships are running a much higher level of risk in what is already a high risk profession. When errors are made on board ships, it is often the shipmaster that is held responsible.”

“Shipmasters have been forced into a situation which is not of their making and they feel pressurized to remain at sea for the safety of their crew.”

“It is that very pressure and fatigue that is bearing down on them and that increases the risk of an accident occurring and significantly increases the risk of them being criminalized by the courts ashore and the loss of their livelihoods.”

To read the IFSMA letter click here.