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Barrier mentality

In recent days I’ve come to the sad conclusion that getting crew home now will actually be harder than it was two or three months ago. The general public is naturally fearful of second and third waves of coronavirus knocking on their door and politicians are willing to ease those fears by increasing the barriers to entry.

While plucky holidaymakers in Europe have descended on beaches, it’s instructive to see what’s happening in Asia where the pandemic started out.

I am hearing plenty of rumours, for instance, that Hong Kong will ban all non-residents from entering the Special Administrative Region until January 1 – effectively closing its borders through to the end of the year. Singapore, meanwhile, has pushed through so many minute changes to its crew change regulations in recent days to make the process nigh on impossible.

There are still just 17 countries that have fully opened to crew movements

It’s now three months since the International Maritime Organization (IMO) endorsed a very workable, well thought out 12-step set of protocols to ensure safe crew changes and we are also three weeks on from a UK-convened international crew change summit and yet there are still just 17 countries that have fully opened to crew movements. The anguish for those stuck at sea, as well as among the men and women out of work and out of pocket waiting for a shipping assignment, is growing to breaking point and yet I fear the situation shows no sign of getting better.

This is a humanitarian crisis on a scale shipping has never witnessed. Our industry’s failure to lobby politicians properly is shameful and could come to bite it in the coming months.

July 2020


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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.
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