News

2020 May 25 14:14

UN must persuade governments to adopt crew change protocols or risk ‘humanitarian disaster’ - ICS

The UN Secretary General has been urged by global industrial and shipping leaders to persuade his 193 member states to act urgently to avoid a “humanitarian crisis”, with over 200,000 tired, mentally-stretched seafarers currently stuck working on vessels across the globe and unable to be relieved of their duties, ICS said in its release.

In a joint letter to António Guterres, the leaders of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), urged the Secretary-General to ensure governments were adopting the 12-step set of protocols issued by the UN’s own maritime regulator, the International Maritime Organization.

The letter explains that “There are now over 200,000 seafarers onboard vessels worldwide who have completed their contractual tour of duty, but have been prevented from returning home. Many of these seafarers will be experiencing adverse effects on their mental health and reduced ability to safely perform their roles in the face of increasing fatigue.”

“Additionally, stringent restrictions imposed by many countries, including denial of shore leave and access to essential medical assistance, is contributing to fatigue and exhaustion. We are concerned about suicide and self-harm amongst this vulnerable population of workers.”

The letter highlights the responsibility of governments to adhere to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, in which states have a duty to protect human rights that are ‘built on the fundamental obligation of governments to protect rights-holders, which applies both under normal circumstances and at times of crisis.”

There has been engagement from some national governments, taking positive steps such as by designating seafarers essential workers. This provides a blueprint for other nations on what steps can be taken to resolve this issue.

On Crew Change: As travel restrictions swept across global economies, trade continued thanks to 1.2 million seafarers onboard ships across the world. This commitment to keeping supplies of food, fuel and goods, including vital medical supplies, has enabled governments to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic in their countries. What stopped however, was the ability of nation states to allow crews to safely rotate on and off ships at ports and return home to their countries of origin.

Having identified crew change as the most significant threat facing supply chains at the onset of the crisis the shipping industry converged to produce a set of globally applicable protocols for national governments.