Crew change issue in shipping industry: Call to action at government levels to create safe travel corridors for seafarers

A.P. Moller-Maersk CEO statement on crew changes in the container ship industry:

“The world’s seafarers are vital to the global economy and in keeping supply chains running. Our colleagues at sea have been working non-stop since the COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year and their safety is of paramount importance. We strongly urge the relevant national governments to address the situation of these men and women and help us establish safe corridors between key countries to keep the situation from deteriorating further. Maersk is committed to helping achieve a solution as quickly as possible to prevent a humanitarian world crisis with potential consequences for safety at sea.
– Soren Skou, CEO, A.P. Moller – Maersk

With some countries gradually beginning to reopen their societies, our priority from 12 May onwards has been to initiate crew changes that can be done safely, bearing in mind local regulations, travel options and minimal risk to current and future crew onboard and their families.

These crew changes are much needed as crewmembers reach the end of their contract terms onboard. We are doing everything we can for them to return home safely and for new crews to get onboard.

To guide our decision-making, we work with various experts in the different fields, for example we have a dedicated doctor helping establish safe procedures and guiding our crews onboard with telemedicine.

Currently, we have 6600 Maersk seafarers aboard vessels and more than a third of them are serving well beyond their contract length and still have no indication of when they can return home.

Another aspect of crew safety involves we are working on is getting authorized access to local medical facilities for crews afflicted at sea by COVID-19 and other health issues.

Fatigue, overall health and issues of mental health are increasing among crews onboard with extended tours.

We have experienced several rejections from authorities around the world to both basic professional medical assistance to seafarers as well as rejection of repatriation/sign off due to their medical condition – both physical or mental in nature.

International flights are still suspended or limited, and local requirements in key hubs makes it extremely challenging to conduct crew change in the volumes that are needed considering the large numbers of seafarers that have exceeded their contracts.

Large numbers of vessel crews are Indian and Philippine nationals – and are subject to strict COVID-19 travel restrictions in their home countries.

A solution would require approvals for flights linking major global ports to the home air hubs of India and The Philippines so vessel crews would be able to rotate.

Crew travel-wise, our vision is to implement agreements with governments, airlines, airport operators, hotel operators and port authorities that would enable crews to have a special essential worker status to safely travel to and from major port hubs that have major intl. airports. Examples we are pursuing are in Europe (both Southern and Northern) as well as throughout Asia. We have a dedicated Task Force working 24/7 on this. The focus is on governments to allow safe travel and visas in port/airport corridors. Goal is create a port crew change hub network (We would arrange hotels where they can quarantine. We will book special charter flights. We will work with airport operators to keep crew out of main terminal areas – and reserve a meeting room in airports for crew to wait for their flts.).

We need authorities to engage with us in a constructive dialogue to facilitate crew changes under the current critical circumstances, ensuring minimal risk to crews and their families as well as the continued flow of commerce around the world.
Source: A.P. Moller-Maersk CEO

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