General Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States delivered by Ms Peggy Vissers, European Union Delegation to the United Nations, 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly Agenda Item 128(a) on the Adoption of International cooperation to address challenges faced by seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to support global supply chains
I have the honour of delivering this statement on behalf of the EU and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia*and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
At the outset, I would like to thank Mr. Widya Sadnovic of Indonesia for his work as facilitator during the negotiations of this important initiative, as well as all others involved, for their constructive engagement.
The EU and its Member States welcome the adoption by consensus of this important resolution.
Seafarers are truly indispensable key workers. They are the ones transporting essential goods: the food on our plates, the fuel for busses and cars. The medicines and equipment that doctors use in our hospitals to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and other illnesses. They are the ones moving global trade. And yet today hundreds of thousands of seafarers are stranded on board their ships.
Because of travel restrictions and border closures, they are unable to leave their ships and return home after long months of uninterrupted work. They are both physically and mentally exhausted, many having worked beyond the time limit for work on board set by international law. This threatens their health, their lives and the safety of vessels they serve on, as well as the marine environment around the world. It also risks severe disruptions to supply chains and international trade, which are more essential than ever during these difficult times.
We would like to underline the need for seafarers to be able to travel and transit both to return home and to embark to relieve their colleagues. Repatriation is a basic right for seafarers when they finish their contracts. We must ensure that this right is upheld for these key workers during the exceptional circumstances we are currently all experiencing.
The EU and its Member States also wish to emphasise that crew changes can be organised safely and carried out at low-risk. And that ports in all EU Member States are open for crew changes. On 9 November, the International Maritime Organization approved Protocols for safe crew changes that are a step towards more harmonised rules that ensure changeovers can safely take place.
Yet seafarers are not the only ones at sea often overlooked despite carrying out essential work. The EU and its Member States are grateful for the important and hard work that both seafarers and fishers carry out every day. For this reason, we regret that no agreement could be reached to give fishers the attention they deserve in this resolution.
To conclude, the pandemic has exacerbated underlying maritime labor issues and seafarers are in need of our support. This resolution is a clear commitment to making sure they receive it. Regular changeovers require states across the globe to work together and ease travel restrictions for maritime crews. These are a precondition for safe maritime traffic worldwide and hence global trade flows. And we look forward to continuing the discussion on how to ensure decent living and working conditions as well as safety on board both merchant and fishing vessels.
I thank you.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.