The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is asking all remaining member countries to ensure that they recognise seafarers as key workers during the Covid-19 crisis.
One third, or 45, IMO member states and one associate member – Hong Kong (China) – have now agreed to designate seafarers and other maritime personnel as key workers, seen as a vital step towards global efforts in resolving the coronavirus crew change crisis..
IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim called on all member states to act as a matter of urgency.
'Key worker designation for seafarers is essential to exempt these professionals from specific Covid-related travel restrictions, allowing them to travel between their country of residence and ships, and to be repatriated at the end of their contracts,' he said.
'This is critical to resolve the crew change crisis, which currently leaves hundreds of thousands of seafarers trapped at sea or stuck at home and unable to join ships. It could even play a key role in granting them priority access to safe vaccination.'
Unions including Nautilus – through its affiliations with the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF), the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), as well as the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) – have all been urging this course of action since the pandemic began. Most recently the Union has tackled the topic through its Crew Change for Christmas campaign.
Resolutions urging governments to designate seafarers as key workers have now been adopted by IMO, the United Nations General Assembly and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The latest list of countries to recognise seafarers is published in an IMO circular letter (4204/add.35). It includes Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines, and the Republic of Korea, as well as the US, Canada, and several EU country members including the Netherlands. One Antipodean country – New Zealand – has agreed, and some African countries, as well as several Middle Eastern countries such as Iran, the UAE, and Yemen. The UK agreed to officially designate seafarers as keyworkers in March following sustained pressure from Nautilus and other transport unions.