As the COVID second wave causes a surge in cases all over the world, seafarers have been caught off-guard in ships once again. Thousands of seafarers have been stranded in vessels. Now big brands have come together to rescue these stranded seafarers and bring them home.
A checklist has been adopted regarding this and companies have been advised to follow the checklist while booking ships for their cargo. One of the major checkpoints that have been included in the list is the measure to support the crew changes. Brands have been advised to ask shipowners to support the crew and facilitate crew changes wherever possible.
Companies like Unilever Plc and other such retail brands who have been the chief consumer suppliers have made up this checklist toolkit. This toolkit has been developed to audit shipping supply chains and help relieving seafarers stuck in vessels to reduce human rights risks.
The initiative will be launched later this week. It asks companies to take measures to facilitate crew changes and curtail the effect of restrictions by following the toolkit while they put cargo on ships.
This will be part of a UN Global Compact project which is likely to be supported by major Consumer Goods Forums which has big shots like Coca Cola, Marks & Spencer, Nestle etc. in the forum.
The UN Global Compact special adviser, Sturla Henriksen, has reiterated this when she said that all businesses have ” the responsibility to respect human rights of seafarers and supply chain workers”. The toolkit is expected to address the vast gap between business aspiration and business action regarding human rights.
The companies have to ensure that the crews are supported and for that, they need to add specific clauses to contracts and check other clauses don’t prevent crew relief.
Earlier, it has been found that companies weren’t hiring vessels or imposing crew change restrictions to get faster delivery. This toolkit has been propagated to remove such bottlenecks. Now brands and shipping chambers have to work in tandem to audit the supply chain – from the warehouse to the ship and the ferry used to their own cargo – to ensure that human rights aren’t neglected at any stage.
Unilever Chief Supply Chain Officer, Marc Engel has already said that they will adopt the toolkit. Earlier, the company had spearheaded a letter campaign to help stranded. This step has been initiated to red flag human rights violations in logistics, revealed Engel.
He has hoped that the toolkit will open up dialogue between suppliers, shipowners, charterers and brokers, regarding costs and other issues.
Guy Platten, the Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Shipping, has supported the initiative saying that the crew change crisis isn’t over yet. Platten has applauded the way the initiative asks companies to put pressure on governments.
The brands who have investigated the situation in the supply chains are quite appalled by it. For example, the London based Fashion retailer TFG London found that 5 of the ships carrying its cargo didn’t have any agreements with the union.
The Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability Executive of the company, Francesca Mangano has said that they were unable to take any action as no meaningful tools were available. They had felt powerless, said Francesca, adding that this toolkit will bring about change.