Governments need to urgently act to ensure ships’ crew changeovers can take place to keep world trade flowing and avert a humanitarian and ship safety crisis, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has told Member State representatives. “We are on the verge of a humanitarian crisis and a real safety issue – we cannot expect seafarers currently on ships to stay at sea forever. It is the responsibility of Governments to allow shipping to continue moving, and for seafarers to return to their homes, or get to their ships to begin work,” Mr. Lim said during a virtual meeting organized by IMO (9 June) to brief permanent representatives and liaison officers from the IMO Member States.
It is estimated that some 150,000 seafarers are urgently waiting to leave their ships since their contracts, as well as any extensions, have expired and they need to be replaced by a similar number since travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have severely hampered crew changeovers.
Mr. Lim thanked countries that have made progress by designating seafarers as key workers, by facilitating crew changes through implementing crew change protocols that have been endorsed by IMO, by easing travel restrictions including facilitating the issuance of passports and visas, and by giving seafarers access to medical care. “But I remain very concerned about countries where restrictions are still in place for seafarers,” Mr. Lim said.
The meeting was updated on the ongoing work by the IMO Secretariat, in liaison with UN entities and international maritime industry bodies, to monitor how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting shipping, and to develop and issue guidance and recommendations on a wide variety of issues, disseminated by Circular Letter (No.4204 series) and published through the IMO COVID-19 web page.
The meeting was also briefed onthe status of IMO meetings and other work.