UK to convene international crew change summit

Marking the International Day of the Seafarer, the UK government has today announced it will host the first international summit on the impact of Covid-19 on crew changes next month, bringing together UN, political and business leaders from across the globe.

Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, commented: “Government leaders must cut through the bureaucracy, lift the continuing imposition of travel restrictions on these key workers and focus on this issue now. The solutions do not need money; they do not even need complicated negotiations, this is simple. The leadership provided by the UK to cut through this red tape is just the sort of initiative that is needed to free the thousands of seafarers who are trapped onboard ships across the world.”

Today let us think not of a day for seafarers, but of the terrible deeds and awful decisions taken by the foolish, the feckless…and in some cases the plain evil

Latest estimates from Intercargo, the international dry bulk shipping association, suggest 30% of all seafarers on cargo vessels have now completed terms under the Seafarer Employment Agreement (SEA) and at least 5% of all seafarers have been onboard for more than 12 months in breach of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).

In its tenth year since being introduced by the International Maritime Organization today’s Day of the Seafarer has elicited more messages of frustration and anger than ever.

Hugo De Stoop, CEO of Belgian tanker giant Euronav, said this morning: “We call upon all politicians and decision-makers embracing and implementing the IMO campaign to get key worker status for seafarers which enables crew changes now.” 

Captain Rajesh Unni, CEO and founder of Singapore shipmanager Synergy Group, one of the most high profile names fighting to get crews repatriated in recent months, said that today was “clouded with sadness and frustration”.

“The situation has been exacerbated and prolonged by the inaction of politicians and cruelties of bureaucracy which are preventing crew changeovers so seafarers can return home to their worried families,” Unni said, arguing that seafarers had become “enslaved to global trade”.

“We need crew source countries to help us help their citizens. We need a systematic approach to crew changeovers, not ad hoc sticking plasters. We need airports opened up, and aircraft landing slots and clearances granted with far more urgency. We need visas to be fast-tracked. And, more than anything, we need politicians and civil servants to help us cut through the red tape,” Unni said.

In a joint statement from the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA), the two bodies pointed out today: “There’s no need to reinvent the wheel – social partners the ETF and ECSA have already detailed actions to be taken to facilitate the issuing of Visas to enter the Schengen area, and urged EU member states to facilitate crew changes and provide medical care. At the same time, the International Maritime Organisation has endorsed several protocols to help in the process. Effective and coordinated action is long overdue.”

One post resonates above all however today in today’s avalanche of crew indignation.

The Propeller Club Liverpool, a maritime business network, has June 25’s most important message – aimed at regulators and politicians around the world.

“Today let us think not of a day for seafarers, but of the terrible deeds and awful decisions taken by the foolish, the feckless…and in some cases the plain evil,” the comment piece headlined ‘Unhappy Day of the Seafarer’ states. “Think of the bad and ugly today. While tomorrow we can think of the good for seafarers and we can celebrate their deeds, we can also think of the solutions they need and the ways and means the world needs to act to get crews home, to get them rested, recuperated and recharged. The world relies on seafarers, and they are relying on us to remind everyone.”

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. Detractors of this situation are exactly the same ones who have never fought with real conviction against the flags of convenience.

  2. Sam, as I wrote:-

    There is a STRIKE coming down the main Cargo highways of this world. No-0ne has heard about it. It will be devastating in its impact; but yet no-one knows about it. No newspaper or tv station has reported on it, but it will happen; and because of who is striking, and why these men are striking, it will change our very world. Imagine a Global World without the means which made it Global. What made it Global? It was the Container ship, and the professionals which crewed those ships.

    1. Sailors are lambs brought to the slaughterhouse by wolves disguised as shepherds. We will not hear complaints!!

  3. Great Initiative by the UK, but why has it taken so long??? This should have been addressed by the international maritime community
    months ago. The IMO and numerous shipping organisations are based in London, why wait for a conference next month. The crews need to be repatriated now. As Guy points out “This doesn’t need complicated negotiatons”

    1. Sponsor the farce and collaborate in this deception hardly can be defined as “great initiative”. Yesterday was the Sailor’s Day, what measures did oligarchies and unions propose? NONE!!

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