A host of the world’s leading shipping organisations have started a campaign, writing letters to governments of Asian nations, in a bid to unlock the crew change crunch.
The campaign has started with the Philippines, the country that supplies more crew than anywhere else.
The heads of many of the world’s top shipowning associations as well as unions, shipmanagers and P&I Clubs have written to Arthur Tugade, the secretary for transport in the Philippines and Robert Empredad, the administrator of the country’s Maritime Industry Authority.
We are writing to Asian governments at the highest political level in order to call for urgent action
While praising the country for many of its initiatives to process crew throughout the pandemic, the letter has two specific recommendations for how Manila can help fix the crew change crisis. The group of shipping heads are calling on the Philippines to introduce temporary visa waivers for crew changes through appropriate means, to be implemented for seafarers holding a seafarer’s identity document issued in accordance with the ILO Conventions No 108 or No 185, or the IMO Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic, or a valid ticket or booking with the ships’ agents as the guarantors of their bona fide identities.
Moreover, given the territorial limitation of such a waiver to the state granting it, the group also calls for cooperation between Asian countries to temporarily allow for a visa free transit area in Asia for seafarers.
The other area the group is keen to bring to the attention of the authorities in Manila regards the limited availability of flight connections between world seaport hubs and the Asian seafarer supplying countries. The group is urging the Philippines to create, in consultation with the aviation industry and other countries, the necessary conditions for seafarer air corridors between crew supply countries and major seaport countries so as to increase access, as soon as possible, to commercial flights.
The limited flight options also cause difficulties in aligning flights with vessel embarkation and disembarkation times, the group pointed out, commending the Philippines for allowing seafarers of any nationality to stay in the country until the arrival of the flight or ship without restricting the number of days. The group called on the Philippines to urge other governments to remove national restrictions and to allow for seafarers to stay in their countries for at least 10 days for the purposes of on-signing and repatriating albeit restricting seafarer movement.
Commenting on the new campaign, Tadaaki Naito, the chairman of the Asian Shipowners’ Association, said: “The current situation is a humanitarian crisis that must be solved to protect seafarers that have been stranded on ships for far too long, we are therefore writing to Asian governments at the highest political level in order to call for urgent action nationally and in partnership with other countries in the world.”
The letter to the Philippines is the first step calling for leadership actions and the group will be communicating with other Asian governments with specific crew change recommendations in the coming days.