Even as the second wave of the Corona Virus (Covid-19) continues to blow across countries, more than 300 companies and organizations from around the world are throwing their support behind efforts to resolve the ongoing crew change crisis by signing the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of seafarers from across the globe have been left stranded working aboard ships beyond the expiration of their initial contracts and are unable to be relieved.
This crisis has escalated to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis as seafarers suffer the consequences of long periods at sea, such as fatigue and an overall decrease in physical and mental wellbeing.
It also increases the risk of maritime incidents and environmental disasters, and poses a threat to the integrity of maritime supply chains, which carry 90% of global trade.
“We are witnessing a humanitarian crisis at sea,” says Jeremy Nixon, CEO of ONE, the Japan-based ocean carrier. “Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, seafarers have kept the world supplied with food, energy and other vital goods, with no line of sight of when to go home to their families. They have become hostage of the situation and unable to disembark from their ships. Yet, we can put an end to the crew change crisis without any risk to the general public health.”
Despite significant efforts by international organizations, unions, companies, and some governments to resolve the untenable crew change crisis, the situation continues to worsen as governments bring in more travel bans in response to the new strains of the Covid-19 virus.
A number of key issues leave the critical situation unresolved, namely: national authorities around the world continue to see crew changes and international travel as a Covid-19 risk; high-quality health protocols are not being consistently implemented by ship operators; and the disruption of international air travel has reduced the number of flights between traditional crew change hubs and major seafaring nations, according to The Global Maritime Forum, which had a role in developing the declaration.
More than 300 leading companies and organizations from across maritime, oil, and commodity trading industries are now recognizing that they have a shared responsibility to resolve the crisis.
The Neptune Declaration defines four main actions to facilitate crew changes and keep global supply chains functioning during the pandemic, including:
“Recognize seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to Covid-19 vaccines; Establish and implement gold standard health protocols based on existing best practice;
Increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes; And ensure air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers”
The Neptune Declaration has been developed by a taskforce of stakeholders from across the maritime value chain including A. M. Nomikos, Cargill, Dorian LPG, GasLog, Global Maritime Forum, International Chamber of Shipping, International Maritime Employers’ Council, International Transport Workers’ Federation, ONE, Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Sustainable Shipping Initiative, Synergy Group, V. Group, and World Economic Forum”
“Seafarers play a significant role in the global race to halt the coronavirus pandemic by providing critical medical supplies to the world’s population, particularly in developing economies. They are crucial to millions of peoples’ wellbeing. We call on our peers, government bodies and other stakeholders to join us in our efforts to ensure that the rights and wellbeing of the frontline workers of global supply chains are respected,” says Graham Westgarth, Chairman of V. Group.