Thirteen countries sign crew change pact

Thirteen countries have agreed to new international measures to open up foreign borders for seafarers and increase the number of commercial flights to expedite repatriation efforts following an international crew change summit convened by the UK yesterday.

The 13 countries are Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States of America, all of whom now recognise seafarers as key workers.

The UK’s transport secretary Grant Shapps said yesterday: “It is unacceptable that there remain thousands of people stranded at ports around the world and we owe it to them and their families to change things. Today marks a new chapter for seafarers and alongside our international partners we are taking, a stand to end the bureaucracy preventing men and women around the world from returning home.”

All need to make visa, quarantine and border exceptions for seafarers now, not tomorrow, not next week

Globally there are now over 200,000 seafarers who are stranded at sea and have overrun their contracts with another 200,000 waiting to start employment and get paid by working at sea.

Secretary-general of the International Chamber of Shipping Guy Platten said: “This summit is a welcome show of political leadership at a time when seafarers across the world need it most. Governments must now use this summit as a catalyst to implement with the solutions the shipping industry has provided, applying the political will needed to put them into practice. This issue doesn’t require money and did not need complicated negotiations. This summit is a catalyst for action.”

The International Maritime Organization has created a 12-step process for states to adopt to make crew changes safe and efficient.

Reacting to the news from the keenly anticipated summit, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) called on the world’s governments to act swiftly to give seafarers visa, border and quarantine exemptions in order to make crew changes possible and resolve the present crisis.

“Governments today adopted a statement pledging to urgently take forward a range of actions to avert the global crisis that is unfolding at sea for the more than 200,000 seafarers who are trapped working on ships beyond their contracts, and desperately wanting to return home,” said ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton.

“We thank those countries who came together today for their commitment, and now call on those ministers and officials who signed the dotted line need to head back to their countries and follow through on these critical pledges by bringing in practical exemptions and waivers that allow seafarers to move freely to enable safe crew changes and repatriation to their home countries.”

Cotton went on to call for action across the board.

“After months of this crew change crisis getting worse, governments must do their bit. That means that port states where ships dock; flag states where ships are registered; transit hubs with airports; and the home countries of seafarers, all need to make visa, quarantine and border exceptions for seafarers now, not tomorrow, not next week,” Cotton said.

A.P. Moller-Maersk CEO Soren Skou commented yesterday as the summit closed: “We strongly urge the relevant national governments to address the situation of these men and women and help us establish safe corridors between key countries to keep the situation from deteriorating further.”

Skou said failure to act fast could create a “humanitarian world crisis with potential consequences for safety at sea”.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. When it comes to the two other largest crew providers apart from the Philippines, I had no real expectations from China, however, India’s not joining the 12 great nations who have proven that they care for their people is rather disappointing.
    What a shame! And India has the cheek to lecture the rest of the world about “democracy”!

    1. Any idea what was the reason for India not signing? India has been in the fore front of arranging crew changes in most ports.

    2. Yes and i signed a contract for 6 months now it’s 10 already, stress level is getting higher and higher day by day. Indian government don’t even care because of them i am unable to get home.

    3. And we the seafarers fear the worst is yet to come. Think of families of those who are stuck on ships indefinitely.
      Hats off to the group of 13.

    4. First of all there must be an effort to change the taboo about the seafarers that they are like criminals or prisoners like in olden days..In the minds of common people this taboo still exists..in the name of PSC all the countries in the world treat seafarers like criminals.. instead of helping them they are torcherring them in the name of safety and innumerable regulations ..All the Governments should promote seafaring carriers and make propaganda in the media about this carrier and the media all over the world should act to give good information about this carrier… people should realise that there are people on board ships who runs it all over the world for the commodities which they use all the time.. the respective governments should give concessions to the seafarers for their adventurous and sacrificial jobs…there is no use of these organisations joining periodically and coming out with some solutions.. the head of the respective governments like PM or President should participate and they should be appraised about this job and it’s important.. they only can make this possible.. there must be a way to stop working in the event of continuous negligence of all the seafarers.. ITF instead of telling the seafarers to stop working they should stop the ships from sailing.. the PSC of the respective governments should stop all those ships where there are ships with overdue seafarers with expired contracts.. the law should not permit the flag states to extend the contracts.. IMO has to device rules and regulations in this regard..no ships should be able to sail with the crew expired contract..and those ships all over the world has to be detained until the crew change takes place.. nothing going to be happened.. every body expecting the international flights to start which is not in the near future.. all these meetings are waste..

    5. Yes sir ,you are right why Indian government is not thinking about our sign off and sign on too ,we have finished here almost 1 year fully distress and crazy here ,,,need to sign off sir

      1. Indian government ready to allow but they said you should arrange charter flight yo come india or leave india otherwise you need to wait until your number come in list of vande matram mission

  2. As long as the CBP has sole discretion over Port Paroles the USA signing such treaty means absolutely nothing and it will all still depend on each local Chief how much they desire to frustrate Seaman life.

  3. These 13 countries should be commended for the initiative taken. However the issue of transit without visa for seafarers joining and disembarking from ports of some of these countries has not been addressed. Considering that Diplomatic Missions in seafarer supplying countries remain closed for issue of visa, it is imperative that any country which opens up their borders to seafarers embarking and disembarking ships must also grant them Green Channel Status for transit without visa.

    1. Additionally what has not been addressed is that some seafarers live in other countries during their home leave, I’m a British National and left the home where I stay for a scheduled 8 week trip in February, till now in June I remain on board the vessel, unable to enter Philippines where I stay with my fiancé, I normally enter/exit on a visa exempt status which is permitted under normal situation since I return to work following each home leave after less than a month in Manila, I have no home in UK and I am therefore stuck on board vessel now for 23 weeks on a rotation that was meant to be 8 weeks, so many others in similar situation as I am unable to return to home or partners

  4. What measures did ship managers propose at IMO on the Day of the Seafarer? None.
    What measures do ship managers propose at this summit? None.
    They keep billing millions and millions for a job that they don’t do.

  5. Disappointing to not see India and China in the forum. Disappointing to not see operators at the sharp end not included. The usual self congratulatory lobby of ineffective associations involved with the self serving politicians.

    This is a crisis of 500,000 not 200,000 now over contract. This is already a suicide and human rights catastrophe and the platitudes of suits won’t fix this. ACTION is required immediately.

    Maersk commenting is a joke, they helped create this mess. If they had not announced delayed crew changes for two months in April and May, the world may have listened earlier. Just like the ship manager in Germany, short sighted. They should have woken up to the strategic mess that was coming. Maersk shame on you.

    We need flights. We need flights to the corners of the world that matter for shipping, for the core seafarers to join and leave ships. The rest of this is just hot air pontification.

    The global stakeholders need to play their part, charterers need to subsidise the cost of deviations, planes need to fly, and India and China need to understand the value of the seafarers.

    1. Yes because of Maersk they are trying to take out the balance in shipping industry in peruse of higher profits. They increased cargo freight rate, they now will take off fourth engineer will hire more 100 cadets and fire 99 of them. Leaving a lot of people in the middle of their career. All Cadets from Philippines are fired. Hope no other companies follow this kind of unethical strategy to bring up their year on year margins in their balance sheets. Cadets are put to do job of wiper, painter mostly and to plug in plug out reefers even in the new manning model company mentioned their duties as cleaning toilets. Most of them signed a contract for 44 hours and are put to work for 70 hours even without paying overtime just for 450$ a month. Shame on Maersk. Making so many 4th engineers job less and so many cadets are left in middle of career.

    2. Frank has hit the nail on the head ‘ self congratulatory maritime organisations’, lets have another conference!!! 13 countries is nothing to congratulate about – Its an embarrasment and shames the IMO which should have been able to corall every single member into signing. Especially all those countries that clamour to get on one of the IMO’s Committees to prove their “maritime credentials”. Surely crew welfare is a fundamental requirement for safe manning?

  6. We appreciate #allgovt realised.
    We had been chasing since April 2020. #IMO #ICS.

  7. From what date will start this thinks? Fujairah still close and Agent say they don’t have news for crew change .. we arrive on 15 july there

    1. uae have signed a pledged of crew change but its not true. They are not making any effort to make crew change possible.

  8. Note that , Ships are not like taxis packed in a taxi Rank. They are spread in the oceans and end up in ports or anchorages all over the world. Seamen join ships to relieve thier fellow seamen at every corner of the world. Sometimes, it takes multiple transits for seamen to join ships/ or get repartriated. Besides, most seamen around the world come from third world countries. Therefore, for the current crises to be assuaged, all governments need to recognised the need to open up borders for air travel, albeit, with the necessary safety protocols, in order to solve the problem of the poor seaman. Without a concerted and unilateral efforts by nations to get over this crises, this 13 country crew change pact will be yet another failure to the detriment of maritime transport

  9. But when this order will get implemented still seafarers are not allowed in Singapore citing 14 days advance notice.

  10. Very well said.we are south african and fillipino crew stuck onboard an ahts in trinidad port of spain since december last year .our contract is for 2months rotatation.uk crew were changed out in may however we still remain onboard due to visa requirements for us and our reliefs.business continues as normal by the rigs as we have been busy since joining the vessel.thanks to who.we the seafarers.show us the respect we deserve trinidad we are tired and desperate to go home to our families

  11. Crew changes are in progress in United States, and have been for some time already. I came from Schengen Treaty country few weeks ago, in next days my crewmembers are scheduled to depart USA to EU, Philippines and also to one African country. So, at least in this part of the world, the cogwheels of crew repatriation seem to be slowly turning.

  12. Good News, that some countries are coming forward to support crew change. Saudi Arabia has signed this pact, but no international flights allowed from Saudi. it will interesting to see how can they support crew change if no international flights are allowed.
    Through this post, I bring out peculiar situation of 22 vessels in middle of Red Sea at anchor for last three months. From start of Epidemic, all vessel are waiting to discharge cargo in Yemen port. Loaded tankers are not allowed to call any other port except Djibouti. In Djibouti, UN has controlling office for all the activities in Yemen. On these 22 vessels have all kind crew nationality including Indian, Ukrainian, Philippine, Pakistani and others.
    Recently, three ships went to Djibouti for crew change though charterer flight, which was handled by Djibouti port and Free Zone Authority.
    Either in Saudi or Djibouti, individual vessel cannot carry out crew change if they have to use charterer flight to bring in and out crew.
    Therefore, International flights with limitation of destination can be started immediately.

  13. Dear all.
    13 countrys you should open the border immediately for crew changes otherwise open the hospital for them
    13 countrys should do an application especially for seafarers to take permation to travel to relieve all seafarers

  14. We the four Nations, India, Pakistan, Bengla Desh
    and Sri Kanka have not joined the 13 countries.
    No wonder we are called the PAPER TIGERS.

  15. But how we can approach authorities of these 13 countries as we will be arriving Fujairah on 14th july,
    Owners, managers keeps on pushing every time and each time there s no results,
    Someone please guide us, so we can approach authorities online.

  16. Yeah right, tell that to the USA and their CDC, which has demonised ships and crew. Dissallowing crew repatriation via commerical flight and thus requiring charter flights only. We know these crew is living in different parts of the world, do you think having a charter flight for each crew is good equity or justice?

  17. Same for Russia, no one participated and it seems our goverment doesn’t care about their people.
    And it is not surprise unfortunately.
    Anyhow it is good news that many countries thinking and understand the importance of our role.

  18. All a bunch a gas, Not one fives a flying F***** to seafarers ,,,seafarers are cockaroaches to land lubbers

  19. Finally, the countries began to move to do something with this situation. Sailors and people on liners cannot land, they have been at sea for so many months. It is a pity to know that India did not participate in this at all. I wonder why so, the country should be worried about its inhabitants. Let us hope that other countries will also take an example from these 12 and begin to do something for their citizens.

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