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Crew change protocols gets IMO support as crisis persists

The Maritime Safety Committee has supported efforts to implement a uniform approach to safe crew changes amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has left around 400,000 seafarers stranded at sea

The International Maritime Organization has supported the industry initiative for safe crew change protocols, but it will be up to individual governments and companies to follow them and help address the crewing crisis

GOVERNMENTS have endorsed industry proposed protocols for safe crew changes amid the coronavirus pandemic to help resolve shipping’s ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Delegates at the International Maritime Organization’s Maritime Safety Committee, which has been meeting virtually over the past week, threw their support behind the protocols for seafarers to safely join and leave vessels as well to be repatriated to their countries.

The latest move comes as there are still around 400,000 seafarers estimated to be stranded at sea and serving beyond their contracts due to the travel and border restrictions that governments around the world have imposed to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Industry, the United Nations and certain governments have been trying to bring an end to the crisis but with little or fragmented results.

The proposal discussed at the MSC was tabled by the industry groups the International Chamber of Shipping, Intercargo and the World Shipping Council, as well as eight countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States.

It lays out the best practices for seafarers to join vessels, from their departure from their home country by airplane to their embarkation on a ship in a third country. It does the same for the seafarer’s disembarkation from a ship in a third country and their return via airplane to their home country.

The move is not binding and only acts as a recommendation for governments to take on board and inform companies and other relevant stakeholders accordingly. The IMO will issue the crew change protocol as an MSC circular.

The MSC also backed a proposal by a group of countries led by France for the IMO to add to its public database a module that will list the ports which facilitate crew changes, as well as the national focal points for crew change issues.

Under the proposal, the IMO will “disseminate information about those ports to enable shipping companies to easily plan and organize crew changes during the COVID-19 pandemic”.

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