Safety - BIMCO Bulletin


SAFETY June 2020 ICS: governments hold the keys to crew change By Mette Kronholm Frnde, Communications Manager and Editor at BIMCO Crew change is a problem that is not going to go away Every month, 150,000 crew on average are ending or starting their shifts on board ships somewhere in the world. With the Covid-19 outbreak, thousands of them are stuck at home unpaid or stranded on board not knowing when they can be reunited with their families. The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) is leading a cross-industry working group including BIMCO that has produced a 12-step framework of protocols on how to open the doors to crew change despite the outbreak. But governments hold the keys. As the Covid-19 outbreak spread across the world and country after country imposed restrictions on movement, closed airports and shut their borders, more and more seafarers were faced with the reality of being unable to sign on or off; crew change became restricted, and for many, impossible. Now, thousands of seafarers are stuck either unable to move to their next job or get home from a job completed. Guy Platten, Secretary General of ICS We cannot allow crew changes to be postponed indefinitely According to Guy Platten, Secretary General of ICS, it is now up to governments to make effective and safe crew change possible and keep supply chains open. Crew change is a problem that is not going to go away. We are all going to have to live with a degree of managed risk, and every government will have to do that too, he says. Now, we need the governments to classify seafarers as essential workers who are essential to world supplies. Ultimately, they are holding the keys. We cannot allow crew changes to be postponed indefinitely because, I think, we are going to be living with this awful virus for many more months, if not a year or more. Therefore, our industry must work out how we are going to cope with this in the medium to long term. Offering airlines a commercial incentive The ICS-led working group has drafted a number of protocols with the aim of being ready for crew change whenever governments and nation states open the doors to that possibility. The Chamber has also worked with various industry organisations, including the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), to prepare a robust plan. The protocols cover the journey from the time seafarers leave home, board the ship and until they arrive back home. The framework of protocols has been presented to the International Maritime Organization, which has now passed them on to member states for action. The processes are complex and need to take into consideration every step, such as whether seafarers need to stay at home for some time before joining the ship essentially self-isolating to which documentation and testing is needed before boarding, and what to do when arriving at the airport. For this, IATAs involvement is essential. On average, 150,000 seafarers every month need to be moved Platten says: We are working with IATA to sort out all the many practicalities, but also to talk to it about how we can free up and encourage flights to resume. We are working on gathering numbers so we have an idea of how many people from different countries such as the Philippines and India will need to join and leave ships over the coming months. With these figures, we can hopefully persuade airlines that there is a commercial case to restart some services. We need the governments and we need the airlines and other parties to engage and co-operate with us to put this into place. What good is it, signing off a seafarer, if he or she cannot get home anyway? Neither can you sign seafarers on, when you cannot get them out of the country to do the job. According to ICS, on average, 150,000 seafarers every month need to be moved after finishing a job or to come on board to start a new one. Currently, many contracts have been extended for a couple of months as crew are stranded. As a result, they are being paid while on board. However, solutions must be found for those confined to their homes, unable to work and receive the salaries on which they depend to live. The crew who have had their contracts extended are getting money, but this cannot go on for months or for another year. You cannot just tell somebody that you will be kept on board a ship for another year. We have got to find a solution in the medium to longer term, Platten says. Photo (top): iStock / Nikada We recognise that crew change will not happen at scale for the time being, but we need it to start taking place, to begin getting people in and out. We are ready to move once the governments are ready to move. It is a sad situation, but it is a solvable situation. Connect with BIMCO Facebook Twitter Linkedin YouTube