ICS: Issue of Crew Change Poses Serious Concern amid Coronavirus Crisis

SeafarerIllustration. Image Courtesy: Pixabay under CC0 Creative Commons license

The issue of crew change that has arisen due to the coronavirus pandemic should be of particular concern to the international community, according to Guy Platten, Secretary-General at the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

“Every day, seafarers across the world are providing a front-line service to the global economy,” he said.

“Limitations on crew change — the replacement of one of the ship’s crew members with another one — have the potential to cause serious disruption to the flow of trade,” Platten believes.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many countries have closed their borders and restricted port entry. While nations are trying to contain the virus, global trade must continue, Platten pointed out.

“Not only do we have a duty to ensure that global trade continues, but we also must ensure that the welfare of our seafarers is not jeopardised… this pressing problem requires the attention of the entire international community,” ICS Secretary-General added.

For this reason, on March 19, ICS will bring national associations from around the world together for the first of an ongoing set of meetings designed to identify swift and effective solutions.

“The route forward is not yet clear, and no idea will be off the table. We have been working hard on the issue for some time now, having provided input to the EU whilst liaising with major international bodies such as the WHO, IMO, ILO and many others. We have already set out guidance which has been made available for free and can be downloaded for free from the ICS website.”

As explained, the meeting will be the beginning of a series of regular conference calls with national associations in response to the coronavirus challenge facing the world, seafarers and the global shipping community.

“We want to ensure that all the issues the industry is facing can be addressed together,” Platten stressed.

“Shipping by its nature is a complicated yet seamless interaction of countries, cultures and corporations. Around 90% of all goods that people use around the world are transported by sea. It is therefore vital that shipping is able to continue as smoothly and safely as possible to ensure that the world is able to fight the COVID-19 virus.”

As precautionary measures concerning coronavirus developments, a number of ports decided to prohibit vessel crew changes. For example, crew changes in the Port of Fujairah and at Fujairah Offshore Anchorage have been suspended, according to GAC. In Dubai, crew changes are also strictly prohibited for vessels arriving from countries outside the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Namibia’s Port of Walvis Bay banned crew changes within port limits as well.

Additionally, South Africa introduced new regulations on March 18 stating that no crew changes are permitted in the Ports of Saldanha and Mossel Bay until further notice. The country’s Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) confirmed it “has taken an executive decision to prohibit crew changes across all eight commercial ports in South Africa, namely Durban, Richards Bay, Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Saldanha, Port Elizabeth, Ngqura and East London.”

What is more, crew changes in Kiel-Canal are subject to changing entry regulations into the EU. In Oman, pre-approval is needed in case of a needed crew change.

On the other hand, Transport Canada has confirmed that there are no movement restrictions for healthy crew members on foreign ships. However, ships’ crew arriving or departing by air are exempt from the directive banning entry of foreign nationals by air.

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