International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) general secretary Stephen Cotton has called on national governments to end the crew change crisis and warned that it cannot be used to justify shortcuts that endanger seafarers' lives and the marine environment.
'I want to be clear that we are calling for action to resolve the crew change crisis but we need to make sure that shipping and the global supply chains that depend on our industry do not make Covid-19 a justification for shortcuts that risk lives and the environment,' he said, highlighting the ITF's new report 'Beyond the Limit: How Covid-19 corner-cutting places too much risk in the international shipping system'.
'Our concerns about remote inspections, certification extensions and rubber-stamping unsafe crewing levels are growing.'
Mr Cotton delivered the comments at a high-level United Nations event organised by the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Global Compact on World Maritime Day. The online event focused on the need to resolve the crew change crisis and enable seafarers trapped aboard their vessels by Covid-19 restrictions to return home.
'Despite all collective efforts, the problem continues to escalate. Nearly 400,000 seafarers are now way beyond their tour of duty. Their hardship is growing. Our seafaring workforce and the international shipping system they serve are at breaking point,' Mr Cotton said.
'Many seafarers have expressed concern about the consequences if they raise their voices about fatigue and the impact on crew, ships and cargo. They fear losing future employment, commonly known as blacklisting. This is unacceptable in 2020 and it isn't a true reflection of our shipping industry.'
He commended UN and international bodies for their work on crew changes and called on national governments to heed the UN secretary-general's call to recognise seafarers as key workers in order to resolve the crisis.
'Governments must recognise seafarers as key workers, providing essential services at this critical time. We urgently need governments to deliver pragmatic solutions for this state of deadlock.'