A special G20 taskforce is needed to handle seafarer repatriation and crew changes during the coronavirus pandemic, say the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF).
In a joint statement the ICS and ITF said the 'establishment of a special G20 taskforce would add greatly to an effective response to the coronavirus pandemic'.
The G20 world leaders and central bank governors promise on 30 March 2020 to ensure the 'smooth continuation of the global logistics supply chain' during the Covid-19 pandemic was critically dependent on the free movement of seafarers, their recognition globally a key workers, and the designation of collective crew change ports, said the ICS and ITF.
'A global strategy is required to deliver the necessary co-operation among relevant UN specialised agencies, governments and other relevant stakeholders, including major airlines, to facilitate the movement and changeover of ships' crews as soon as practicable.
As an immediate step, the ICS and ITF called 'on all governments to identify ports in their countries, and appropriate airports nearby, from where crew changes can be resumed as soon as possible, and to inform International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization accordingly.
National authorities should also 'engage immediately' with their national shipowners' association, seafarers' unions and other relevant stakeholders, in order to explore solutions to the serious problem of conducting crew changes, they said. Otherwise they would face 'risks impeding collective efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic whilst also allowing global supply chains to continue to function.
'We also call on Governments, in the event of medical emergencies, to provide visiting seafarers with access to emergency medical treatment ashore and, if necessary, to facilitate emergency repatriation as required by the ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.'
Travel restrictions had also resulted in thousands of seafarers being at sea for several months already and this, combined with demanding tasks, both physical and mental, increases exponentially the risk of marine accidents and disasters happening, which is a daunting scenario for an already fragile and stretched global economy.'