The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has announced that from 28 February 2021 the interim Covid arrangements which have permitted seafarers to serve longer than 11 months onboard ships will end. Seafarers around the world will now be looking at whether other countries will follow suit, putting an official deadline on the crew change crisis that has raged all year.
Under the Maritime Labour Convention the normal maximum period that a seafarer can serve aboard a vessel without leave is 11 months.
AMSA general manager of operations Allan Schwartz said that while flexibility on the part of regulators was necessary when the Covid-19 pandemic began, keeping seafarers onboard ships for longer than 11 months is not sustainable going forward.
There’s been sufficient time for ship operators to adjust to the Covid-19 world and develop new plans for crew changes
“In our view there has been sufficient time for ship operators to adjust to the Covid-19 world and develop new plans for seafarer repatriation and crew changes,” Schwartz said, adding: “Seafarers have shouldered a heavy burden during the Covid-19 pandemic, maintaining global trade and our keeping our economies moving by delivering the vital supplies that we all need. But it has come at a personal cost to the seafarers who have spent longer onboard ships, unable to take shore leave due to mandatory quarantine and separated from their friends and families.”
Shipping’s most acute logistical challenge of the past 50 years – the crew change crisis – sees around 400,000 seafarers stranded at sea with a further 400,000 ashore waiting to relieve them, often waiting with little or no pay.