World Maritime Day: Seafarers and the urgent issue of crew changes


On Thursday, 24 September 2020, on the occasion of World Maritime Day, the International Maritime Organization, the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Global Compact will co-host a High-Level Side Event, in collaboration with the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Workers’ Federation, on the urgent issue of maritime crew changes during the high-level opening week of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly.

More than 80% of world trade is transported by sea, responsible for global supply chains carrying cross-border flows of food, fuel, medical supplies, raw materials and agricultural products. National COVID-19 containment measures, including travel restrictions and border closures, continue to make it increasingly difficult for ship operators worldwide to conduct required crew changes. More than 300,000 seafarers are currently urgently requiring repatriation, many of which have served extended contracts; some seafarers have now been at sea for over 17 months consecutively. At the same time, 300,000 seafarers are waiting to join ships.

This has rapidly unfolded into an urgent humanitarian, safety and economic crisis. Growing concerns of seafarer fatigue and mental health issues, combined with instances of denial of medical care, not only highlight the critical humanitarian dimension, but also pose an increasing risk to navigation safety, threatening both human life and environmental ecosystems. There are also increasing economic concerns regarding the continuity of essential global supply chains.

The efficient continuation of trade and the undisrupted functioning of supply chains will also be affected, because ships with fatigued seafarers cannot operate indefinitely. This will affect all levels of industry, from energy to consumer goods companies. Commercial fishing, an important contributor to food security and livelihoods, is facing a similar crew change problem.

The upcoming World Maritime Day presents an occasion to focus attention on the importance of seafarers’ rights, shipping safety and maritime security. This virtual event will convene:

James Macharia, E.G.H, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development, Government of Kenya
Noriel Araúz, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Administrator of the Panama Maritime Authority
Arthur Tugade, Secretary of Transportation, Government of the Philippines
Kitack Lim, IMO Secretary General
Sanda Ojiambo, CEO and Executive Director, UN Global Compact
Guy Ryder, ILO Director General
Stephen Cotton, General Secretary, International Transport Workers’ Federation
Guy Platten, Secretary General, International Chamber of Shipping
Henriette Hallberg Thygesen, VP and CEO, Fleet and Strategic Brands at A.P. Moller-Maersk
Marc Engel, Chief Supply Chain Officer, Unilever

Sea News, September 17

Baibhav Mishra
Author: Baibhav Mishra