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Sailors, Hidden Heroes of the Pandemic


We are grateful to all the eponymous heroic sailors who have worked devotedly to meet the needs of humanity as the Covid-19 Outbreak shakes the whole world.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, hundreds of thousands of sailors have been stranded on ships, while the whole world goes to forced shutdowns due to the importance of Covid-19, ships continued their voyages and ports worked. The seafarers, who played a major role in delivering people’s medical, food and other needs to the evacuation ports, were stranded on ships for months, and hundreds of thousands of seafarers could not return to their country, home.

Call from IMO to UN

In April, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the United Nations had a meeting to declare seafarers as key workers. At the meeting, the impact of COVID-19 on interruptions and restrictions on travel, trade flows, global logistics, food, medicine, and medical equipment supply was discussed.

Providing the needs of seafarers, like Health Personnel, first is essential for communities to continue their lives under normal conditions. In the pandemic process, it cannot be denied that sea transportation is the most important logistics organ for the transportation of medical needs and food.

World trade is 90% above ships! Laborers working on ships and ports in difficult and sometimes unhealthy conditions are the heroes of the Covid-19 epidemic, just like our healthcare workers.

On December 1, 2020, the United Nations invited seafarers to appoint as key workers.

What happened since April

In April, the IMO Secretary General asked the UN for support in assigning seafarers to “key workers”.

IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim asked United Nations system agencies to support IMO in its request to declare seafarers, port personnel and other maritime workers as key worker. He stressed the well-being of seafarers, the importance of this well-being, and the importance of frequent crew changes to support the global supply chain. He also highlighted the elusive hurdles to crew changes due to travel bans and restrictions being increasingly increased by governments due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Continued IMO meetings in May

IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim reiterated the Member States that Seafarers should be appointed as key workers and urged all permanent representatives and liaison officers to convey this message to their governments. He said seafarers are paramount to the smooth running of ships, enabling the industry to support the global supply chain.

IMO has published COVID-19 guidance for personal protective equipment and interactions between ship and shore personnel.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is very important to protect all relevant personnel from infection, including personnel and shore personnel who are temporarily on board or may need to interact with seafarers.

IMO distributed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines on the safe and effective use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimize the risks of COVID-19 infection for seafarers, maritime crew, fishing boat personnel. This guide also applies to shore personnel (pilots, dockers, port State control officers, shipping agents, etc.) who need to board the ship.

150,000 sailors awaiting crew change in June goes beyond Covid-19

IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim said that the cooperation between all the elements involved in the maritime industry came to the fore during the COVID-19 outbreak and that the infected personnel will be needed more than ever at the stage of providing support in every sense.

Mr. Lim highlighted the ongoing challenges, including the need for a crew replacement for the nearly 150,000 seafarers who had to abandon ships. However, with the pandemic, there has been intense cooperation between the maritime and port communities as well as between Governments and international organizations on a virtual basis. Although many Governments cooperated with carriers and ports on crew changes and other issues, more had to be done.

Take action on marine crew changes to prevent humanitarian crisis

IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim told Member State representatives that states should take urgent action to continue world trade, prevent the humanitarian and ship safety crisis, and ensure that crew changes of ships occur. “We are on the verge of a humanitarian crisis and a real security problem, we cannot expect the seafarers currently on board to stay at sea forever.” (June 9)

Mr. Lim thanked countries that made progress by facilitating crew changes, allowing seafarers to access key workers status by alleviating travel restrictions, including by facilitating the issuance of passports and visas, while adhering to crew exchange protocols approved by IMO.

“But I remain concerned about countries where restrictions are still imposed for seafarers,”

25 June World Seafarers’ Day

Governments have the power to resolve the growing humanitarian crisis. Take action to transport seafarers to their homes and to ensure that their auxiliary crews join ships. At the 26 June webinar hosted by IMO to mark Seafarers’ Day, the slogan of the panelists was “Take the heroic seafarers home”.

The 2020 Seafarers’ Day campaign has highlighted the essential role of seafarers at the forefront of the global supply chain, while calling on governments to give them key worker status to facilitate their ability to travel to and from ships. Hundreds of thousands of sailors are stranded on ships and desperate to return home. Many have their contracts extended by several months beyond the maximum allowed at sea under international regulations.

July – IMO Secretary General says more States need to act on crew replacement

Kitack Lim, IMO Secretary General, has urged more Member States to sign commitments to ensure that more than 200,000 seafarers can be repatriated months later, beyond their original contract.

Secretary General Lim invited Member States to adhere to the principles in the joint statement and to disseminate it widely to all parties concerned. Urges Member States wishing to sign the declaration to contact the UK Government.

September – Updated guidelines for seafarers’ safety during the pandemic

The World Health Organization has published a temporary guide aimed at protecting the health of seafarers working on cargo and fishing vessels during the COVID-19 outbreak.

This exclusive guide addressed the unique situation of seafarers working in close contact environments for long periods without a doctor.

The document was published to provide guidance to shipowners, seafarers, trade unions, associations and authorities. Pre-ship screening includes advice on hand hygiene, physical distance and mask use, as well as advice on how to manage suspected cases of COVID-19 on board. Seafarers’ mental health services and the importance of psychological support are also covered. WHO also reminded Member States that seafarers in need of urgent medical care should be provided with access to medical facilities located on the shore.

IMO encouraged Member States and international organizations to disseminate the guide as widely as possible.

3 October 2020 Regional webinars launched to address Seafarers’ challenges

IMO organized the first of a series of regional webinars for Member States on the challenges faced by seafarers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Fair treatment for seafarers and COVID-19 pandemic on Legal Committee agenda

IMO Legal Committee started its 107th session with a virtual session (27, 30 November and 1 December). Highlights on his agenda included the work of the Legal Committee and issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency treatment for seafarers and seafarers abandonment.

December 1st, IMO welcomes UN resolution on key worker seafarers

The United Nations General Assembly has invited UN Member States to implement relevant measures to appoint seafarers and other maritime personnel as key workers, the repatriation of stranded seafarers and allow others to join ships and gain access to medical care.

The United Nations acknowledges the need for an urgent and concrete response from all stakeholders, including the private sector, to the International cooperation decision adopted on December 1, which addresses the challenges faced by seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak to support global supply chains, a consequence of the pandemic as a result of national travel restrictions imposed around the world for seafarers stranded at sea and / or unable to join ships.

Welcoming the adoption of the resolution, Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Kitack Lim said: “Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of seafarers vital to maintaining their supply chains have been stranded at sea for months beyond their contract deadlines. This issue causes tremendous tension, fatigue, exhaustion, which is unsustainable. I hope this call to action will result in a positive momentum to resolve the crew change crisis. ”

“I am grateful to the countries that have taken steps to identify seafarers as key workers, and to all UN agencies and industry partners who are working tirelessly to resolve the plight. This is a human rights issue. Seafarers’ lives are made impossible by the difficulties of crew replacement. This situation has a detrimental effect on ship safety and supply chain ”

The UN resolution calls upon Governments to support the design and implementation of responses and policies aimed at ensuring the integrity and resilience of global supply chains, at the request of other relevant stakeholders, including international organizations, workers ‘and employers’ organizations.

Seafarers are required to work in decent working and living conditions.

Vaccine for seafarers

Drawing attention to the recent positive news about the development of vaccines against COVID-19, Lim said that with the appointment of key workers, seafarers and maritime workers should be included in priority vaccination programs in order to be able to continue their work in a healthy manner and to maintain their vital and global supply chains.

“I hope the key worker assignment will enable seafarers to be vaccinated quickly. This will also provide a way of resolving the ongoing crew replacement crisis. ” Said.

UNGA decision on International cooperation to address the challenges faced by seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to support global supply chains

The decision was adopted at the 75th United Nations General Assembly meeting on December 1, 2020.

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