United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and International Maritime Organization (IMO) gave out a rough estimate of about 3,00,000 seafarers who will need flights for the purpose of crew exchanges. These will be required every month from mid-June 2020.
According to them, about 70,000 cruise ship staff members await for repatriation where the about same number of members waits for getting onboard. They also pointed out that there is evidence of collapsing international trade and threatened access to critical supplies.
Maritime industry forms the lifeline of the world economy and carries out more than 90% of global trade. It transports food, medicines, energy, raw materials and manufactured goods. Thus it is important to ensure the movement of ships, the opening of ports, to facilitate crew exchanges and cross border trade. Crew changes in commercial fishing vessels – the main source of global nutrition, are very essential to avoid the fatigue of members.
As per the guidelines put out by the duo, the crew workers such as seafarers, offshore energy sector personnel, marine personnel, service personnel at ports and fishing vessel personnel, should be designated as “key workers” since they provide essential services regardless nationality and should be exempted from travel restrictions. When identified as key workers the trade in essential goods such as food and medicines will take place smoothly.
UNCTAD and IMO jointly addressed the need for lifting regulations and suggested that waivers and exemptions should be granted wherever possible.
The maritime personnel and seafarers should have access to travel options and documentations to reach home safely.
There should be access to personal protection devices such as masks, hand sanitizers and medical care for injured or sick crew.
The measures include going online and adopting electronic means for administrative, ship-shore and commercial interactions.
Sharing of information-pre arrival and reporting requirements related to COVID-19 and access to adequate equipment as well as resources to control station in port.
The suggestions were made keeping in mind the employment regulations, international safety and humanitarian reasons. At the same time, the duo called for the safe undertaking of all necessary controls.
They also pointed out that measures followed for confronting virus might be beneficial in some other way, as it encourages investment in digitalization and efforts for improving the energy efficiency of the ship and can even reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Crew changes are crucial that it cannot be postponed. The organization stressed the need for governments working together to remove the hurdles faced by marine transport and promote crew well being. Solidarity, coordination and international collaboration are the key to overcome the pandemic and the serious repercussions it brought along.