International Chamber of Shipping: The issue of crew change should be of particular concern to the international community

Guy Platten, Secretary General, ICS

 Economies around the world are entering into a period of profound change. The spread of the coronavirus has resulted in many countries closing their borders and restricting port entry. While containing the virus is vital, we must ensure that global trade is allowed to continue.  

The issue of crew change that has arisen due to the coronavirus should be of particular concern to the international community. Every day, seafarers across the world are providing a front-line service to the global economy. Limitations on crew change (the replacement of one of the ship’s crew members with another one) have the potential to cause serious disruption to the flow of trade.  

Not only do we have a duty to ensure that global trade continues, but we also must ensure that the welfare of our seafarers is not jeopardised. Although all ICS members are doing a fantastic job at supporting their individual members at a national level, this pressing problem requires the attention of the entire international community.  

That is why, on Thursday 19th March, ICS will be using our convening power to bring national associations from around the world together for the first of an ongoing set of meetings designed to identify swift and effective solutions.  

The route forward is not yet clear, and no idea will be off the table. We have been working hard on the issue for some time now, having provided input to the EU whilst liaising with major international bodies such as the WHO, IMO, ILO and many others. We have already set out guidance which has been made available for free and can be downloaded for free from the ICS website.  

This meeting will not be a ‘one-off’, but the beginning of a series of regular conference calls with our national associations in response to the significant challenge facing the world, our seafarers and the global shipping community. We want to ensure that all the issues the industry is facing can be addressed together.  

Now is the time for cooperation and clear thinking. Though we do not have all the answers, we understand that we are stronger and more effective together than when we are apart. Shipping by its nature is a complicated yet seamless interaction of countries, cultures and corporations. Around 90% of all goods that people use around the world are transported by sea. It is therefore vital that shipping is able to continue as smoothly and safely as possible to ensure that the world is able to fight the COVID-19 virus.”  

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