UN calls for seafarers to be designated as key workers to resolve crew change crisis

The United Nations General Assembly has called on UN member states to designate seafarers as key workers and implement measures to facilitate crew change.

In a resolution adopted yesterday, the United Nations recognised the need for an urgent response to resolve the situation of around 400,000 seafarers stranded at sea.

The UN resolution encourages governments and stakeholders to implement IMO’s crew change protocols, which it first published in May. The protocols clearly set out the responsibility of governments, shipowners, transport providers and seafarers and provide a framework to develop robust procedures.

44 UN member states currently classify seafarers as key workers

IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim welcomed the resolution, saying: “Sadly, hundreds of thousands of seafarers, who are vital to maintaining supply chains, remain stranded at sea for months beyond their contracted time. This is causing immense strain, fatigue and exhaustion and is unsustainable. I hope that this call to action will result in positive momentum to resolve the crew change crisis.

“I am grateful to those countries who have already taken steps to designate seafarers as key workers and to all UN agencies and industry partners who have been working tirelessly to find ways to resolve the difficult situation. This is a human rights issue. Seafarers’ lives are being made impossible through the crew change difficulties and this can only have a detrimental effect on ship safety and on the supply chain, the longer the situation continues.”

Lim said the key worker designation should also ensure that seafarers and maritime workers receive priority treatment when Covid-19 vaccinations are made available.

Applauding the UN news, Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, commented: “The International Chamber of Shipping understands that 44 UN member states currently classify seafarers as key workers. While this resolution is a positive step, clearly there is much more to be done. Governments must now leverage their considerable power to persuade others to follow suit and classify their seafarers as key workers.”

Grant Rowles

Grant spent nine years at Informa Group based in London, Sydney, Hong Kong and Singapore. He gained strong management experience in publishing, conferences and awards schemes in the shipping and legal areas, working on a number of titles including Lloyd's List. In 2009 Grant joined Seatrade responsible for the commercial development of Seatrade’s Asia products. In 2012, with Sam Chambers, he co-founded Asia Shipping Media.


  1. Nearing one year & non compliance of laws made for benefit of seafarers? Ultimately the seafarer is at the receiving end with Owners Charterers Managers all WFM but seafarer is least considered, how many provide free internet facility on ships?

    1. I agree there is no benefit for the seafarer. I am heading for 13 months on board right now. Fortunately our owner allows us free internet which is limited, but a great gesture which we all appreciate.

    2. This is a human rights & Safety issue and should be in the yearly ISO Certification Quality amendment during a pandemic.

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