Over 300 industry leaders sign Neptune Declaration to end crew change crisis

Over 300 maritime industry and human rights leaders have signed a new global pledge urging for industry accountability and finally ending the deepening crew change crisis.

Illustration; Image by Offshore Energy

The signatories of the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change vowed to deliver on a shared responsibility to resolve the crisis which has seen hundreds of thousands of the world’s seafarers pushed into what amounts to forced labour.

General Secretary of the International Workers’ Federation (ITF) Stephen Cotton welcomed the commitments of the 327 companies and organisations that signed the Neptune Declaration, an initiative led by the Global Maritime Forum.

“With the rise of new variants of Covid, we are sadly seeing governments backsliding and bringing in more restrictions. Right now is the time for every CEO, every board member, of every company that relies on global shipping, to demand that governments don’t forget the key workers driving their economies and unblock their borders to seafarers before this crisis gets worse.”

“Companies must now be held to account. This means no more charter parties with ‘no crew change’ clauses: charterers must work with shipowners to facilitate crew changes. This means investors asking the companies they own and deal with what the companies are doing to address the crisis. And this means asking why any company in the industry didn’t sign this declaration,” said Cotton.

Signatories of the Neptune Declaration committed to act including calling industry peers and governments to:

  • Recognise seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to Covid-19 vaccines
  • Establish and implement gold standard health protocols based on existing best practice
  • Increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes
  • Ensure air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers

“On behalf of A.P. Moller – Maersk, I’ve signed The Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change. Our seafarers have made huge personal sacrifices throughout the pandemic to sustain global trade and need to be recognized as key workers in all nations. Our people’s safety is our top priority. Their wellbeing and ability to cross borders is essential for the continued delivery of critical supplies and global trade in time of crisis. We have a shared responsibility to work together to solve this for our unsung heroes,” Soren Skou, CEO of A.P. Moler/Maersk, said.

“As we move in to the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and well-being of our seafarers is at the top of our minds. The urgent matter of facilitating seafarer repatriations and crew changes is a vital one that needs immediate attention,” said Soren Toft, CEO MSC.

“On top of MSC’s efforts last year to bring the critical issue of crew changes to the attention of governments, we believe it is more important than ever to appreciate the valuable contribution that seafarers bring to the global economy and to ensure that these people are recognised as key workers.”

Despite all significant efforts by shipowners, international organisations and some governments, the situation is only getting worse as new travel bans are implemented.

To seek a solution to this humanitarian crisis, it is crucial that national governments recognise seafarers as keyworkers, strict health protocols are followed onboard and onshore, and the air links between crew change hubs and major seafaring nations are restored, MSC said.

Signatories include major multinationals BP, Cargill, Rio Tinto and Shell, industry majors Maersk, MSC, CMA CGM, COSCO Shipping, Frontline, Euronav, Hapag-Lloyd, MOL, NYK Line, Trafigura and many more.