UK government to hold international summit to address crew changes amid COVID-19

Westminster Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, London, England. Credit: John Keeble/Getty Images

The UK government will host the first international summit addressing the impact of COVID-19 on restricting crew changes with the United Nations and other political and business leaders, it announced on 25 June.

To commemorate the Day of the Seafarer, UK maritime minister Kelly Tolhurst will host the virtual event, set to take place in July. The summit will deal with the issues affecting the shipping industry during the global pandemic, including; crew welfare, crew contract extensions, lack of crew repatriations, and crew mental health.

“Seafarers have worked tirelessly during this pandemic to ensure people across the globe can access the essential food, medicine and supplies we all need, but thousands have been left with no way of coming ashore when faced with border restrictions,” said Kelly Tolhurst, maritime minister. “This government has helped more than 7,000 crew get home back to their loved ones across the world, regardless of nationality or circumstance”.

There are an estimated 200,000 seafarers stuck onboard or at home due to the travel restrictions imposed during COVID-19. Tolhurst will discuss at the summit what governments and the shipping industry can do to protect the welfare of seafarers and facilitate crew changes.

“We welcome the announcement to hold a virtual summit on this critical crew change issue. The fragile supply chain and global trade is now at threat of logjam due to government inaction and bureaucracy. Government leaders must cut through the bureaucracy, lift the continuing imposition of travel restrictions on these key workers and focus on this issue now,” said Guy Platten, secretary general International Chamber of Shipping. “The solutions do not need money; they do not even need complicated negotiations, this is simple. The leadership provided by the UK to cut through this red tape is just the sort of initiative that is needed to free the thousands of seafarers who are trapped onboard ships across the world”.