Shipping in for COVID19 Time Bomb As Restrictions Pile Up

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  • “Terrible accidents” could be caused at sea if shipping crew changes continue to be blocked by coronavirus restrictions.
  • International maritime regulations require seafarers to leave their ships every month to protect their health, safety and welfare.
  • Due to government-imposed travel restrictions, flights for seafarers to head home or to travel to ports are now unavailable.
  • Staff who cross international borders for duty are being affected by “national restrictions designed for passengers and non-essential personnel.”
  • Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore have allowed crew changes on a “case-by-case basis” and in “certain circumstances.”

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) warned that there could be “terrible accidents” at sea if shipping crew changes continue to be blocked by coronavirus restrictions, writes Abigail Ng for an article published in CNBC.

Leave ships every month

In a joint statement, ICS and the International Air Transport Association said that of 1.2 million crew members at sea at any one time, around 100,000 usually leave their ships every month. 

International maritime regulations, to protect seafarers health, safety and welfare, require them to leave their ships every month.

Seafarers stress levels and terrible accidents

The coronavirus pandemic that has now killed nearly 145,000 people and sickened more than 2.15 million worldwide has hindered these crew changes.

Esben Poulsson, chairman of the ICS said, “The issue of seafarers and their well-being is crucial, and if this problem is allowed to go on for too long, you will find stress levels and health issues, and eventually there will be some terrible accidents.” 

Constraints and restrictions faced

  • Due to government-imposed travel restrictions, flights for seafarers to head home or to travel to ports are now unavailable.
  • Immigration and health screening protocols are also impeding the “vitally necessary crew changes.”
  • Some staff who cross international borders for duty are being affected by “national restrictions designed for passengers and non-essential personnel.”

He added saying this could “unnecessarily jeopardize the ability of airlines and shipping companies to keep global supply chains operating.”

A bit of a time bomb

The two trade associations are calling on governments to facilitate ship crew changes, with the IATA offering the help of airlines to fly maritime workers to and from designated airports so that they can return home or take over from other crew members.

He said, “Without wishing to sound overly dramatic, we think that this is potentially a bit of a time bomb.” 

Need governments to act!

He added, “We’ve worked with IATA … on various ways of tackling this problem but we need governments to act and we need them to act now.”

Case-by-case basis

 Poulsson said Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore have allowed crew changes on a case-by-case basis” and in “certain circumstances.”

“We just need to, not only expand that, but we need other jurisdictions to go the same way.”

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Source: CNBC

1 COMMENT

  1. NOBODY is addressing the BIG issue here!
    That seafarers should be able to go home is accepted, but where are healthy reliefs coming from? Campaigns to get crewmembers home to protect the shipping industry and the invaluable service that it provides, particularly now getting food to countries under epidemic lockdown, are actually promoting the opposite. It is impossible to guarantee that a joining crewmember, no matter how long he has been in isolation at his home, does not get infected on the flights or in the airports during his travel to the vessel. This combined with the disgraceful reaction of ports to a single infected seaman on a vessel is the “time bomb” these do-gooders are warning against, and they are helping drive the world shipping to it.

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