The heads of the maritime, labour and aviation organizations of the United Nations have issued a plea for urgent action on crew changes and for keyworker designation to pave the way for sea and air workers to be relieved and repatriated safely during the Covid-19 pandemic.
During the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic, travel is being curtailed to prevent spread of the disease. This has resulted in some ports and airports closing due to travel restrictions, with ships and aircraft denied entry. It has also resulted in restrictive measures for foreign nationals travelling to or from the country.
In a joint statement, The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) are advising that from the middle of June 2020, around 150,000 seafarers a month will require international flights to ensure crew changeovers can take place. Half of these seafarers need to be repatriated home by aircraft while the other half will be joining ships.
In order to pave the way for crew change, ICAO, IMO and ILO urge "key worker" designation for seafarers, marine personnel, fishing vessel personnel, offshore energy sector personnel, aviation personnel, air cargo supply chain personnel, and service provider personnel at airports and ports, regardless of nationality. Governments are urged to exempt these personnel from travel restrictions, to ensure crew changes can be carried out and that they have access to emergency medical treatment and, if necessary, to facilitate emergency repatriation.
The statement also urges Governments and relevant national and local authorities to implement an already-agreed guidance, issued by ICAO, IMO, ILO and the World Health Organization (WHO), including on keyworker designation.
The implementation includes permitting seafarers, marine personnel, fishers and offshore energy sector personnel to disembark and embark ships in port and transit through their territory (i.e. to an airport) for the purpose of crew changes and repatriation; and implementing appropriate approval and screening protocols.
"For humanitarian reasons – and the need to comply with international safety and employment regulations – crew changes cannot be postponed indefinitely," the organizations say in the statement.
"We are seeking the support of Governments to facilitate crew changes, operations essential to maintain the global cargo supply chains and operations related to humanitarian aid, medical and relief flights."
Earlier this month, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim endorsed a series of protocols developed by a broad cross-section of global maritime industry associations to ensure that ship crew changes can take place safely during the pandemic.
Read the full UN agencies’ joint statement:
Read about the protocols issued by the industry: