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Date set for key summit to tackle seafarer crisis

The International Chamber of Shipping is urging ships around the world to sound their horns on the eve of an international summit to tackle the crew change crisis

The ICS says an estimated 400,000 seafarers are either stranded at sea after overrunning their contracts, or who are waiting to start their tours of duty

AN INTERNATIONAL summit called to address the crew change crisis brought about by coronavirus pandemic lockdowns will be held in London next week.

The July 9 event has been arranged by the UK government and aims to involve political and business leaders from across the globe.

It is designed as an opportunity “to reflect on the impact of the pandemic on the global shipping industry, and what governments and industry must do to protect the welfare of crew workers around the world”, according to the Department for Transport.

An estimated 1.2m seafarers are currently in service on about 55,000 maritime ships worldwide. Normally 200,000 of them change each month as their period of service on board comes to an end.

The date of the summit was confirmed by the DfT as the International Chamber of Shipping said it was calling on all ships to sound their horns in an act of solidarity with stranded seafarers on the eve of the event.

“The 8th July is a perfect moment to remind those politicians who are meeting to consider the impact of Covid-19 to classify these unsung heroes of global trade as key workers and to instigate seafarer air-bridges to enable safe travel,” said Guy Platten, secretary-general of the ICS.

He highlighted the plight of an estimated 400,000 seafarers who are either stranded at sea after overrunning their contracts, or who are waiting to start their tours of duty.

Seafarers are not currently classified as key workers in many countries, meaning they are unable to embark or disembark ships due to national travel restrictions, which has led to the current impasse.

Ships carry 90% of global trade and an inability to facilitate crew risks leaving them unable to sail, thereby generating a logjam in vital supply chains.

The ICS believes the solution to be a regulator-approved 12-step crew change ‘road map’ now being circulated by the International Maritime Organization, which many national governments have so far not adopted.

“The solutions do not need money or complicated negotiations. Governments must now implement these protocols,” said Mr Platten. “If bureaucracy continues to get in the way, what has already become a humanitarian crisis at sea, and is fast becoming an economic one, will lead to severe consequences for an already overstretched global economy.”

UK Shipping Minister Kelly Tolhurst has described seafarers as “hidden casualties” of the pandemic.

“We owe it to them and their families to ensure their health and wellbeing is safeguarded, and that their lives are returned to normal as swiftly as possible,” she wrote in an article for Lloyd's List last week.

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