Shipping given one final month to resolve crew change issue

Employers and seafarer trade unions have agreed one final month’s extension before crews working beyond their stipulated contracts must be repatriated. The deal, thrashed out yesterday, means governments have until June 15 to resolve the crew change issue that has seen around 150,000 seafarers waiting beyond their contracts to get home thanks to strict travel restrictions put in place following the spread of Covid-19 across the world.

In a joint statement from the International Transport Workers Federation and the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC) yesterday the two organisations urged governments to swiftly follow the International Maritime Organization’s guidelines issued earlier this month on crew change and to prioritise for repatriation crewmembers who have been working the longest time at sea, while also asking shipowners to increase bandwidth and internet access for men and women working at sea to get in touch with their families.

Failure to abide by the mid-June deadline, the statement warned, could “negatively impact on the commercial viability” of ship operations.

To assist governments to put in place coordinated procedures to facilitate the safe movement of seafarers, the IMO last week issued a 12-step plan to 174 member states, providing them with a roadmap to free seafarers from their Covid-19 lockdown and allow appropriate exemptions for them to join or leave ships.

The 55-page roadmap has been advanced by a broad coalition of seafarer unions, and international shipping industry associations, with input from airline industry representatives, international organisations, and the insurance sector, to provide a comprehensive blueprint of how governments can facilitate crew changeovers and resolve safety concerns throughout the entire process.

This week leading crew travel specialists Global Marine Travel and ATPI have partnered with IMEC to amalgamate the shjpping industry’s crew travel requirements to produce enough volume for airlines to bring idle aircrafts into operation.

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. This is sheer apathy on behalf of the government that the industry has come to this juncture.
    Where arrangements for repatriation are in place for the shore dwelling people but the governments attitude and lack of political will is creating this fiasco for seafarers.
    Atleast a few words of appreciation or designating us key/essential workers will be some sort of soothing balm for us stranded souls.

    Have lost faith in our head of govt.

  2. This is serious situation for seafarers and the neglect of govt. Is really disappointing.
    Here the world is not able to stay at home for saving the lives and govt. Are pushing them to stay @ home …and this side we seafarers , everyday waiting for the news to go home.
    It’s like we are stranded souls and nobody cares … despite of sacifices …for the running the whole world.
    If the govt. Can’t do anything about that …They should at least respect every seafarer in the world and must appreciate for everything they are doing.
    Lost faith in the govt. ,Lost faith in the people.

  3. It looks that IMO people ars useless. They are only good at imposing new rules and making life of the seafarers harder. And I bet they get a lot of money for doing just nothing……pathetic….

  4. All seaferers are being held like prisioners. Companies cant do much and all govt have sealed borders. But all need ships calling the port but no one wants to show way for change of Seafarers. Specially for foreign trade ships. I wish god help seaferer from mental disorder and letnthem set free as they too have a.life outside the boat.

  5. Chief executives running shipping companies call seafarers ” heroes”. But they would not lift a finger for you if it implies reduce their privileges! For them, seafarers are slaves to exploit.

  6. Itf, IMO shame on you… What kind of care is it. How you consider current blockage will impact the safety and do on

  7. SAM

  8. I would have been happy if the comments from at some of the representative country ‘s Governments were also published.

  9. In close cooperation with Dutch Shipping owners, KLM and Port agencies, Boers Crew Services is planning turn-key flights for seafarer in the ARAG area in order to solve the replacement problem. The plan is organize flights between Amsterdam – Kiev – Amsterdam, Amsterdam – St. Petersburg – Amsterdam and Amsterdam – Manila – Amsterdam starting around the 25th of Mai.

  10. Seafarers should unite together & stop all their vessel operation. Coz untill we are working silently they ll keep calm. Every action has its reactiin,. So imo, itf go to hell. U r good in making rules & but not good at humanity!!!

  11. Sir,
    The best I could understand is lockdown at sea, repatriation will automatically work..!!! Enough is enough and company are just not willing to step ahead and take extra initiatives or effort…!!! Any country government thanks seafarers.??? The answer is NO…for everyone we don’t exist..!! We have to do something now and it will need a lot and collective effort by all seafarer and company..!!

  12. i agree that seafarers should unite… we can shake the world if we are united…

  13. At this moment all Chief executives remain safe at home. How dare they speak of solidarity with seafarers? They must leave home and relatives, , go back to office and start to work 24 hrs 7day/week as we do on board. Only then we will speak of real solidarity.

  14. Well the time has come that shipping companies should sit together with Country government to relief the seafarers who are due or overdue because slowly this will have detrimental effect on their mental status and this to whole sipping operation so it’s high time to do something concrete for seafarer. I respect the view of ITWF .

    1. Actually ITF is doing a great job as always in this regard from the begining, and WTF is IMO doing? FUcking nothing!
      As seafarers we r lucky to hv an active organisation like ITF to act on behalf of all of us stranded at sea. Thank you ITF.

  15. In my contract is this article ” Either party may terminate this Contract by giving 4 weeks notice in writing to the other party.Such termination shall have effect after the termination period has lapsed,although the Employee is entitled to his/ her salary until he/she has arrived in his/ her country of residence”
    I understand that I can give a 4 weeks notice and after this period I can go to smoke all day in my cabin ,still receiving my salary until my repatriation.
    If I go to cabin legally, then second engineer will do the same, then 2 mate and so on,you understand where I am going, so it is possible to switch off the lights legally


  17. As a seafarer today I feel like having no dignity and importance in this world or even in shipping world . we ,being treated like neglected part of shipping industry even after being the backbone . May be these so called bosses sitting in their lavish offices have forgotten that breaking of backbone will paralyze them .

    1. Seafarers, you all as brothers should unite ,
      Lockdown at sea, stop the the voyage, demand your right!
      Let see what will happen to those selfish governments and and stupid good for nothing IMO.

    2. For decades, plutocracy of IMO has been promoting the declassification of seafarers. Now COVID clearly shows that seafarers have become useless for any vital struggle and become increasingly submissive, and dependent on management, unable to care for their dignity at work by themselves.

      This profession is crushed, reduced to rubble and any reconstruction is already impossible, but if there is any action in next future, it necessarily should pass through throwing overboard the plutocrats sitting at the IMO!!

  18. Absolutely agree! Need to do world seaman’s strike, stop all operations, goods-provisions deliveries for one week and governments of all contries will understand very fast what’s seaman’s roles in world economic.

  19. Talking about contracts? Our company sent an extension, which we refused to sign in the beginning, now we´ve been working for months without a contract. Modern slavery.

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