The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has called on the world’s governments to act swiftly to give seafarers visa, border and quarantine exemptions in order to make crew changes possible and resolve the present crisis.
ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton represented the federation's one million seafaring members at the International Maritime Virtual Summit on Crew Changes hosted by the United Kingdom in London where governments adopted a statement pledging to urgently take forward a range of actions to 'avert the global crisis that is unfolding at sea' for the more than 200,000 seafarers who are trapped working on ships beyond their contracts.
'We thank those countries who came together today for their commitment, and now call on those ministers and officials who signed the dotted line to head back to their countries and follow through on these critical pledges by bringing in practical exemptions and waivers that allow seafarers to move freely to enable safe crew changes and repatriation to their home countries,' Mr Cotton said.
'What we want to do is remind all governments today that while you’re predominant focus is on responding to the economic challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, that response cannot ignore the plight of seafarers, and their fundamental human dignity.
'After months of this crew change crisis getting worse, governments must do their bit. That means that port states where ships dock; flag states where ships are registered; transit hubs with airports; and the home countries of seafarers, all need to make visa, quarantine and border exceptions for seafarers now, not tomorrow, not next week,' he said.
The ITF has repeatedly warned that if governments fail to act to bring in practical exceptions for seafarers, and support more humanitarian flights being available, then there are serious risks for the wellbeing of seafarers, for maritime safety, and for critical supply chains.
'Governments must move from "appreciation [of] the world's seafarers who have continued tirelessly to operate ships and move trade throughout this global crisis" to concrete action. Now it's about accountability, words will not get our people off these ships.'
Governments signatory to the statement include:
- United Kingdom
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
- United States of America
International Labour Organization (ILO) director-general Guy Ryder, who also attended the meeting, said: 'I welcome the coordinated efforts undertaken by social partners and the international community to respond to the crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic in the maritime sector, and call on all member States to support the implementation of this joint statement.'