ICS: 400,000 seafarers stranded at sea and shore due to crew change crisis

A staggering number of seafarers is being impacted by the inability to carry out crew changes due to the COVID-19 restrictions imposed on travel by national governments across the globe.

Illustration; Image by Navingo

Despite incessant calls from the maritime bodies, seafarers are yet to be designated as ‘key workers’ and exempted from travel restrictions.

Some countries like Cyprus, Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Djibouti have lifted restrictions in order to facilitate the repatriation of crews. However, more needs to be done in order to resolve the ongoing ordeal of so many seafarers.

The situation has resulted in 400,000 seafarers being affected, with 200,000 workers who have overrun their contracts and are currently stranded on ships, and another 200,000 are at shore, waiting to start their tours of duty, according to the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

The situation poses a risk of supply chains being logjammed as ships without crews won’t be able to sail.

Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping, said there was a clear solution for the ongoing crisis: a regulator-approved 12-step crew change road map.

“The solutions do not need money or complicated negotiations. Governments must now implement these protocols. If bureaucracy continues to get in the way, what has already become a humanitarian crisis at sea, and what is fast becoming an economic one, will lead to severe consequences for an already overstretched global economy. The time for political leadership is now,” he said.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) is encouraging ships around the world to sound their horns when in port at 12.00 local time on July 8th to remind governments of the ongoing crew change crisis.  

The action comes ahead of a critical summit meeting led by the UK Government on July 9th to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on crew changes and on the day leaders meet for the ILO Global Summit.