One of the most adverse effects of the pandemic has undoubtedly been the fact that thousands of seafarers around the world have been paralyzed in their jobs on board ships.
Beyond the expiration of their contracts and consequently not being able to be relieved. Thus becoming an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, as seafarers suffer the consequences of long periods on board, such as fatigue and a general decline in physical, emotional and mental well-being.
It also increases the risk of maritime incidents and environmental disasters, representing a threat to the integrity of logistics chains in the maritime sector, as it is responsible for more than 85% of world trade.
“We are witnessing a humanitarian crisis at sea,” said Jeremy Nixon, CEO of ONE, a Japan-based shipping company. “Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, seafarers have kept the world supplied with food, energy and other vital goods, not knowing when they will return home to their families. They have become hostages to the situation and are unable to disembark from their ships. However, we can end the crew change crisis without any risk to public health in general.
Despite the remarkable efforts of international organizations, trade unions, companies and some governments to resolve the unsustainable crew change crisis, the situation continues to deteriorate as governments impose more travel bans in response to new strains of the Covid-19 virus.
National authorities around the world continue to view crew changes and international travel as a Covid-19 risk. Vessel operators are not properly implementing high-quality sanitary protocols and the disruption of international air travel has reduced the number of flights between traditional crew change hubs and major marine nations, according to the Global Maritime Forum, which played a role in developing the declaration.
The Neptune Declaration defines four main actions to facilitate crew changes and keep global supply chains functioning during the pandemic, which include:
– Recognize seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to Covid-19 vaccines.
– Establish and implement gold standard health protocols based on existing best practices.
– Increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes.
– Ensure air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers.
The Neptune Declaration has been developed by a working group of stakeholders from across the maritime value chain, including AM Nomikos, Cargill, Dorian LPG, GasLog, Global Maritime Forum, International Chamber of Shipping, International Maritime Employers Council, International Transport Workers Federation, ONE , Transmarine Carriers of the Philippines, Sustainable Transport Initiative, Synergy Group, V. Group and World Economic Forum.
“Seafarers play an important role in the global race to stop the coronavirus pandemic by providing critical medical supplies to the world’s population, particularly in developing economies. They are critical to the well-being of millions of people. We call on our peers, government agencies and other stakeholders to join us in our efforts to ensure that the rights and welfare of frontline workers in global supply chains are respected,” stated Graham Westgarth, president of V. Group.