Allow crew changes to resolve humanitarian crisis, insists IMO Secretary-General
crisis is taking place at sea and urgent action is needed to protect seafarers’
health and ensure the safety of shipping, the IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim
has warned. In a strong statement issued ahead of the General Assembly of the
United Nations, he called on governments to take swift action to resolve the
crew change crisis.
More than 300,000 seafarers and marine personnel are currently
stranded at sea
It is estimated that more than 300,000
seafarers and marine personnel are currently stranded at sea and unable to be
repatriated despite the expiry of their contracts. A similar number of
seafarers have been unable to join ships and relieve them. This is due to
restrictions imposed by several governments in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,
including restrictions on travel, embarkation and disembarkation in ports,
quarantine measures, reductions in available flights and limits on the issuing
of visas and passports.
Seafarers cannot remain at sea indefinitely: Mr Lim
Some seafarers have
now been on board their ships for more than 17 months, exceeding the 11-months
limit set out in the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). Many have been denied
proper access to medical care and shore leave, in breach of their rights under
the MLC and other international instruments. This creates serious concerns, not
only for seafarers’ health and wellbeing, but also for the safety of shipping.
Overly fatigued and mentally exhausted seafarers are being asked to continue
operating vessels, increasing the risk of shipping casualties.
remain at sea indefinitely,” Mr Lim insisted. “If the crew change crisis is not
resolved soon, ships will no longer be able to operate safely pursuant to the
Organization’s regulations and guidelines, further exacerbating the economic
impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he declared. Shipping moves more than 80 per
cent of global trade and is a crucial component of the global economy.
Secretary-General also insisted on the importance of removing other barriers to
crew changes, such as visa and travel restrictions, and of providing seafarers
with immediate access to medical care and medical facilities on shore, when
Rate of progress not keeping pace with the backlog of ships requiring
progress has been made by many countries in allowing for crew changes for all
seafarers, the rate of progress is not keeping pace with the backlog of ships
requiring crew changes.
ILO, IMO and the UN Global Compact to raise visibility of the crew
Mr Lim has invited
Member States to raise the issue of seafarers and the crew change crisis during
the upcoming High-Level Week of the 75th session of the United Nations General
Assembly, beginning on 22 September 2020. ILO, IMO and the UN Global Compact
will host a side event during that week in order to raise the visibility of the
crew change crisis on World Maritime Day, 24 September 2020.