The International Transport Workers’ Federation, which represents about half the world’s seafarers, mentioned emergency extensions to contracts expired on Tuesday and the group will now do all the things it could possibly to assist crew train their authorized rights to cease working and return house. If sufficient of the extremely expert seafarers take motion, the transfer might trigger slumping world commerce to grind to a halt, in keeping with the Federation, snarling provide chains.
Shipping corporations and unions agreed to droop crew modifications in March to attenuate disruption to cargo. But this was meant to be a short-term resolution.
“Some seafarers have been on board for more than a year, and over the course of this pandemic many have been prevented by governments from coming ashore even for a walk and alarmingly refused emergency medical care,” Dave Heindel of the International Transport Workers’ Federation mentioned in an announcement. “Frankly, we have seafarers killing themselves at the prospect of this misery continuing without end. They call them ‘floating prisons,”http://rss.cnn.com/” he added.
“For security, regulatory and humanitarian causes, crew modifications can’t be postponed indefinitely,” Laursen added.
Richard Barnes, the captain of a chemical tanker, said he is fortunate to work for a “excellent” European shipping company, but that the conditions and atmosphere on board ships vary, and people may suffer loneliness if they don’t feel they can talk to their captain or crew. “If you are not on a great ship, I’d assume it is very straightforward to slide into despair,” he told CNN Business.
Barnes, who has been a seafarer for 43 years, had to extend a four-month shift to six months because he couldn’t get shore leave in the United States. He recently returned to the United Kingdom via Rotterdam, but said it is much more difficult for seafarers who live in China, Vietnam and the Philippines to get home. “I’ve by no means seen something like this,” he added.
“We really want to get the planes going,” said Steve Cotton, general secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation. Cotton said he could not predict how many crew members would get off ships or simply stop working, but added that the Federation had fielded “a whole bunch” of calls and social media messages from seafarers this week seeking advice.
“Seafarers want us to take a agency place to get governments to behave,” he told CNN Business.
Getting around travel restrictions
According to the Federation, governments have ignored the “escalating crew change disaster” by taking insufficient action to designate seafarers as key workers and exempt them from Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Some ports do not allow crews to disembark, or enforce a 14-day quarantine, making staffing changes impossible. An even bigger issue is that there are simply no flights operating to transport crew home or bring in replacements.
Frank Coles, the CEO of Hong Kong-based Wallem Group, a shipping services company, described the Federation’s latest action as “a name to halt world transport.” He said it had been caused by the failure of governments to address the “humanitarian disaster” that exists in the industry. Governments have been more interested in bringing home vacationers than remembering who “provides the world,” he added.
“The proven fact that we’re three months down the road and we have now 400,000 seafarers in want of crew change is totally unsustainable,” said Guy Platten, secretary general at the International Chamber of Shipping.
Some 1.2 million seafarers are on board vessels at any given time, with about 200,000 currently stranded and another 200,000 unable to reach ships for routine changeovers, according to the Chamber. China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Russia and the Ukraine are the largest suppliers of seafarers.
“We’re not even asking governments to give you a plan — we have already finished that. We’re merely asking them to undertake it. It’s a query of political will,” Platten told CNN Business. He said the Dutch government has worked with airliner KLM to move crew between Amsterdam and Manila, showing that it can be done.
The Chamber has called on governments to waive all visa restrictions for crew to ensure the smooth flow of global trade. “The United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada have proven that is doable, however others ought to do the identical as this can be a world problem,” Platten said.
Under the Maritime Labour Convention, a seafarer is allowed to spend 11 months at sea, but some have been sailing in excess of 15 months because of the pandemic, said Jim Scorer, secretary general of the International Federation of Shipmasters’ Associations, which represents ship captains. “That’s harmful,” he told CNN Business. Ship captains can be held criminally liable if accidents occur on board due to fatigue or equipment malfunctions, he said.
“We want authorities to interact with us in a constructive dialogue to facilitate crew modifications underneath the present crucial circumstances, making certain minimal danger to crews and their households in addition to the continued circulate of provides around the globe,” mentioned Maersk’s Laursen.
— Angus Watson and Ivan Watson contributed reporting.