Thirteen leading maritime nations joined the growing number of states allowing crew changes by signing a pact for exemptions in port controls and more commercial flights to accommodate thousands of exhausted seafarers stuck on board ships around the world.
More than 200,000 seafarers are stranded at sea and have overrun their contracts with another 200,000 waiting to start employment and get paid by working at sea.
The 13 countries are Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the UK, United Arab Emirates, and the US. They are now recognise seafarers as key workers.
A demand proposed by Cyprus and other maritime hubs when the strict lockdown measures were imposed in March.
As key workers, seafarers would be in the same category as front-line workers in the health and security services of any country, as well as professionals employed in utilities, necessary to keep an economy functioning.
In the Maritime Virtual Summit on Crew Changes on Thursday (9/7), Indonesian Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi proposed that all IMO member countries must ensure seafarers affected by Covid-19 pandemic could make crew changes and be able to return to their home countries (repatriation) safely.
The virtual conference initiated by British Government and attended by IMO member countries and international organizations in the maritime sector discussing crew change policy in international shipping during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Indonesian proposal was agreed by all delegations from the IMO council member countries and became one of joint statement items issued at the end of the conference.
Indonesia also encourages member countries to keep open access to ports specifically for crew change
In addition, Indonesia stressed the importance of international community's attention to "mistreatment and abuses" towards seafarers.
"We strongly support the crew change policy. This is very important to ensure that the exchange process can be carried out in a timely manner to prevent seafarers from experiencing fatigue and being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which can endanger the operational safety of the ship," said Budi Karya. (hlz/hlz)