Four United Nations’ organisations have called for continued global collaboration to address the crew change crisis.
In a joint statement issued yesterday, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Health Organization (WHO) say new challenges and variants of concern like omicron threaten to worsen the plight of the world’s seafarers
“To maintain recent positive trends, governments and industry, in collaboration with international organizations, need to scale up their common efforts to limit the effects of emerging variants on crew changes while safeguarding the health and wellbeing of seafarers and global communities,” the statement urges.
While the supply of Covid-19 vaccines has largely increased in the past months, there are persistent inequities in the volume available across countries. In addition, the recognised duration of the validity of vaccination certificates, adopted by some countries as the sole condition to grant entry, or as to facilitate and expedite international traffic by others, is subject to constant readjustments, generating additional uncertainty and disruption.
The four UN bodies reiterated calls for continued collaborative efforts to address these ongoing challenges, demanding seafarers are provided with immediate access to medical care as well as facilitate their medical evacuation when the required medical care cannot be provided onboard. The UN bodies stressed seafarers must be designated as key workers, providing an essential service, to facilitate maritime crew changes and safe movement across borders, and recognise relevant documentation for this purpose.
They also urged the prioritisation of vaccinations for seafarers, and to exempt them from any national policy requiring proof of Covid-19 vaccination as the only mandatory condition for entry. The UN groups stressed it was vital to ensure the consistent application of internationally agreed protocols and standards, including those for seafarers’ travel and vaccination documents, coordinate appropriately, and take measures to avoid punitive measures, fines and excessive costs.