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Press Release

ICS represents global shipowners at ministerial summit on crew change

International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) Secretary General, Guy Platten, addressed the Ministerial International Maritime Summit on Crew Changes hosted by the United Kingdom in London to urge national governments to take decisive action and solve the crew change crisis affecting world shipowners, seafarers and supply chains.

9 July 2020

Addressing the Summit, Guy Platten reminded the Ministers attending the summit:

“Each of you know the value that shipping brings to your country. Shipping transports 7 trillion dollars’ worth of raw materials, goods, including medical equipment, food and fuel each year. If this crew change issue is not resolved, we could start to see a logjam which will impact each and every one of you in your ability to trade globally.

“The shipping industry is very pragmatic, and we are adept at finding solutions however this is one issue we absolutely cannot resolve without your intervention.”

A key demand of the shipping community is for seafarers to be classified as Key Workers, which is a vital first step in resolving the situation.

There are 200,000 workers who have overrun their contracts and are currently stranded on ships. Another 200,000 are at shore, waiting to start their tours of duty. This is causing a humanitarian crisis, with seafarers unable to be reunited with families.

On the humanitarian crisis, Mr Platten added:

“The humanitarian crisis unfolding is very real. We as employers have been doing all we can, but seafarers cannot extend their tours of duty indefinitely – the situation is unsustainable and at breaking point. If we cannot change our crews, then ships ultimately cannot continue to operate safely. And this will have a serious impact on the movement of trade, at this time of crisis and economic uncertainty.”

This unsustainable situation has a clear solution: a regulator-approved 12-step crew change road map. While the shipping community has been hard at work, too many national governments have dragged their heels.

On the need for political action, Mr Platten highlighted:

“We know by you being here today that you understand the issue however the main obstacle to resolving this crisis is that many border protection and health authorities still lack understanding of the essential role of seafarers in the flow of global trade.

“The evidence is clear, the risk presented by cargo ships and crew travel is relatively low, especially given the health protection measures being taken by our industry. We have no wish whatsoever to bring infection on board our ships – not only is that disastrous for the crew on board but it also costs business.

“In contrast the risks presented, by further inaction, to the resilience of global supply chains is incredibly high. This is the message that we really need you to take to your colleagues in other ministries, in other governments, and in particular to the heads of your governments, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and leaders of the G20. The time to act is now.

“Red tape and bureaucracy must not be allowed to trap our seafarers or lead to economic problems in your own countries”

Mr Platten concluded his remarks to Ministers:

“The industry stands ready to support you and we are happy to work with you on rapid implementation of programmes that will facilitate crew change, which will benefit all.”

Speaking after the meeting Mr Platten said:

“This meeting was an important step to relieve the crew change issue that is severely impacting our seafarers, our industry and potentially the global economy. I was reassured by the commitment of government ministers from around the world to act and I am grateful to the UK government for hosting the summit.

“We now need to see that the positive words and commitments translate into actions. The seafarers that serve us deserve nothing less.”

The 12-step plan entitled “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 on the IMO website here.

Download free Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance to help protect the health of seafarers (and passengers) as well as the general public here.