COVID19: Cyprus shipping G20 appeal to aid crew changes

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The Cyprus Shipping Chamber, whose members employ up to 60,000 seafarers onboard their vessels around the world, has joined a global appeal to G20 leaders to facilitate crew changes and safeguard access to healthcare onshore to these ‘unseen heroes’ of world trade.

The CSC said it fully supports the message from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) calling for co-operation between UN agencies, governments and airlines to find viable solutions to facilitating crew changes.

Their main recommendation is to establish a special G20 taskforce on the issue of ships’ crew changes as an effective response to the coronavirus pandemic.

G20 finance ministers and central bank governors, scheduled to have a virtual meeting on April 15, have tasked the relevant working groups to deliver on the roadmap to discuss and take urgent actions to address the global challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Millions of seafarers are either isolated onboard cargo ships that are busy keeping the global economy going, due to closure of ports or fears of infection from coronavirus, with many unable to return to their home countries or even have access to medical services in countries where they have anchored.

The ICS and the ITF said in their joint appeal that there is “a more urgent basis to allow access to emergency medical treatment ashore and urgent repatriation to seafarers, where necessary.”

Their joint message states: “We must not forget that that merchant ships move the world’s medical supplies, food, energy and raw materials, plus the manufactured products and components which, due to complex global supply chains, are necessary for national economies to function effectively and for the preservation of jobs.”

They said that global trade is dependent on the world’s 2 million seafarers and marine personnel who operate the world’s merchant ships.

“Given the expected continuation of travel and flight restrictions, there is a critical need for governments to address the serious problem of facilitating ships’ crew changes.

Without coordinated global action, the efficient flow of imports and exports carried by sea will be jeopardised, with negative impacts on the resilience of national economies throughout the COVID-19 crisis.”

The Cyprus Shipping Chamber said it fully supports the recommendations and stands ready to continue the ongoing discussions with the Shipping Deputy Ministry, the Cyprus government and local stakeholders, in order to identify, the soonest possible, viable solutions on crew changes issues and to safeguard seafarers’ access to healthcare onshore.

The ICS-ITF call on the G20 leaders and governments to designate professional seafarers and marine personnel, regardless of nationality, as “key workers” providing an essential service and grant them appropriate exemptions from national travel or movement restrictions, to enable them to join and leave ships.

They also call on all governments to identify ports in their countries, and appropriate airports nearby, from where crew changes can safely be resumed as soon as possible.

In the event of medical emergencies, they recommend that governments “provide visiting seafarers with access to emergency medical treatment ashore and, if necessary, to facilitate emergency repatriation as required by the ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.”