The European Commission (EC) is making moves to alleviate the crew change crunch brought about by travel restrictions from the coronavirus.
The EC has issued guidelines to provide crew with recommendations on health, repatriation and travel arrangements. The EC has also called on member states to create a network of ports where crew changes can take place without delays.
European Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said: “Seafarers are keeping the vital channels for our economy and supply chains open, as 75% of EU global trade and 30% of all goods transported within the EU are moved by sea. The guidelines adopted today include sanitary advice, recommendations for crew changes, disembarking, and repatriation for seafarers and passengers. I am asking the member states to designate ports where fast-track crew changes take place.”
EU member states currently have different rules on crew changes in their ports. To ensure clarity for all involved, member states have been told by Brussels to follow the commission’s guidance on facilitating transit arrangements and the guidance on the implementation of green lanes. For non-EU nationals who need visas to disembark within the EU and who could not apply for them due to the current situation, member states have been urged to grant these at the border so that they may be quickly repatriated.
The guidelines call on member states, in coordination with the commission, to designate ports around EU shores for fast-track crew changes, with adequate facilities for seafarers to undertake medical checks, quarantine if required by the country in question, and transport connections onward to their home country.
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has welcomed the guidance issued by the EC. Two days ago the ICS along with the seafarers union the International Transport Workers’ Federation sent a letter to the G20 leaders, including the EU, to support the “Unsung Heroes of Global Trade” and put in place coordinated measures to facilitate safe and effective crew changes.
Guy Platten, ICS secretary general, commented on the news from Brussels: “We welcome the leadership provided by the European Commission in their call to EU member states to facilitate the essential movement of seafarers and marine personnel. Crew change is a massive problem for the entire shipping industry, in addition to ship operators based in Europe, and we hope that this quick response to our calls to the G20 for action globally will act as a catalyst for other nations, and that the G20, in conjunction with IMO, will quickly put in place pragmatic and coordinated arrangements to allow crew changes to take place. Seafarers are the unsung heroes keeping supply chains open. It is right that we support them as they quietly support all of us.”