Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has welcomed the commitment of 12 countries to facilitate crew changes and achieve key worker designation for seafarers, following a virtual ministerial summit hosted by the UK Government on 9 July. This step represents significant progress to help resolve a growing crisis facing the maritime industry, and enable hundreds of thousands of stranded seafarers to go home or join ships.
In a joint statement, representatives from 12 countries expressed their deep concern about the current crisis and acknowledged that “the inability of ship operators worldwide to conduct ship’s crew changes is the single most pressing maritime operational challenge to the safe and efficient movement of global trade”.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions and border closures imposed by Governments around the world have caused significant hurdles to crew changes and left hundreds of thousands of seafarers stranded onboard ships, or unable to join ships. It is currently estimated that at least 200,000 seafarers worldwide are stranded on ships and require immediate repatriation, and a similar number urgently need to join ships to replace them. This has led to a growing humanitarian crisis, in addition to concerns that seafarer fatigue and mental health issues may lead to serious maritime accidents. There are also concerns about the continuity of the global supply chain.
IMO Secretary-General Lim applauded the pledge, by signatory countries of the joint statement, to encourage all IMO states to designate seafarers as key workers and to implement the Protocols for Ensuring Safe Ship Crew Changes and Travel during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic, which were endorsed and circulated by IMO in May. The joint statement also recognises the importance of considering the possibility of waivers or exemptions from visa or documentary requirements for seafarers, and to help increase access to commercial flights to and from the principal countries of origin of seafarers.
Opening the summit, Mr. Lim highlighted the importance of implementing the Protocols designed to ensure safe crew changes and called for concrete action for seafarers. ‘It is time to act for seafarers. Safe ship operations and crew wellbeing should not be compromised. The humanitarian crisis seafarers face has implications for all of us, for the world economy and for the safety of life at sea and the environment,’ Mr. Lim said.
The joint statement was signed by representatives from the following countries: Denmark, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States of America.
The International Maritime Summit on Crew Changes was hosted by the United Kingdom Government and was also attended by representatives from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the UK Chamber of Shipping, Nautilus International and Maritime UK.
On 11 August the IMO reported that it had joined international efforts to assist the Government of Mauritius, following an oil leak from the bulk carrier mv Wakashio, which ran aground on 25 July off Pointe d’Esny natural area, south-eastern coast of Mauritius.
IMO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)/United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Joint Environment Unit have jointly deployed an oil spill response expert. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and border closures in Mauritius, the expert was (on 11 August) awaiting onward travel via specially chartered UN flight from Nairobi, following COVID tests.
Approximately 3,894 tonnes of low-sulphur fuel oil, 207 tonnes of diesel and 90 tonnes of lubricant oil were on board the Wakashio. An amount of oil leaked following severe weather.
It is understood that the affected area is located in a very sensitive zone that includes the Blue Bay Marine Park, Iles aux Aigrettes, and the Ramsar sites.
At the time of writing (11 August) satellite mapping support was being sought from UNOSAT, to provide an indication of the extent of the spill and to inform the response effort.
A new Just In Time Arrival Guide which aims to provide both port and shipping sectors with practical guidance on how to facilitate Just In Time Arrivals has been released. This was reported by IMO on 11 August.
To download the Guide readers are invited to see IMO web link here: http://www.imo.org/en/OurWork/PartnershipsProjects/Documents/GIA-just-in-time-hires.pdf
This Guide has been developed by the Global Industry Alliance to support low carbon shipping (Low Carbon GIA), based on research and discussion amongst its membership, and the Guide documents the findings of a series of industry roundtables which brought together nearly 50 companies and organizations who are key stakeholders in the port call process.