IMO issues 12-step ‘roadmap’ to facilitate ship crew changes

Currently, more than 100,000 seafarers are stranded at sea due to COVID-19 curbs preventing them from entering or transiting countries. Credit: Synergy Group

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has circulated a 12-step ‘road map’ to its 174 member states, providing governments with recommended protocols to free seafarers from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) lockdowns by allowing exemptions for them to join or leave ships.

The roadmap provides a comprehensive blueprint of how governments can facilitate crew changeovers and resolve safety concerns by establishing coordinated procedures to facilitate the safe movement of seafarers. Protocols proposed in the roadmap clearly set out the responsibility of governments, shipowners, transport providers, and seafarers.

The protocols also provide a framework to develop robust procedures that can be adopted worldwide to ensure that trade can keep flowing and seafarers can be relieved. Failure to relieve seafarers of their duties poses a great risk to their wellbeing, vessel, and the wider ocean cargo transport system.

“The problem is simplistic, but the solution is complex. So, we have stepped up and done the homework and developed the protocols. We are now working with governments to implement this roadmap,” said Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). 

“Seafarers continue to work really hard, day in day out and far away from loved ones, but if we are not able to free our seafarers from their COVID-19 lockdown we could start to see disruption to trade and, more importantly, we increase the risk of accident and occurrences of mental health issues. Putting this off is no longer an option,” said Platten.

Tens of thousands of seafarers remain trapped onboard ships across the globe due to travel restrictions imposed to halt the spread of COVID-19.

Protocols contained within the roadmap were jointly developed by the global associations; ICS, the International Transport Workers’ Federation, BIMCO, the International Association of Ports and Harbors, INTERCARGO, INTERFERRY, InterManager, INTERTANKO, and others, with input from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), International Labour Organisation, and World Health Organisation, along with ICS national shipowner associations and ITF-affiliated seafarers’ unions.

The Recommended Framework of Protocols for Ensuring Safe Ship Crew Changes and Travel during the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, as circulated by IMO, can be found here.