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.
Late Friday (11 September) the IMO issued a Joint Statement with other UN entities to urge action on the crew change crisis
In the agreed document all Governments were called upon to immediately recognize seafarers as keyworkers, and to address the humanitarian crisis faced by the shipping sector.
The Statement was issued above the signatures of several UN agencies including IMO, ILO, UNCTAD, FAO and ICAO to urge all UN Member States to take action to urgently resolve the crew change crisis to avert a humanitarian disaster that will also affect the safety of shipping, the protection of the marine environment, the continuation of efficient trade and the recovery of the world economy.
The Joint Statement can be download here:
The maritime shipping sector faces a humanitarian crisis
The maritime shipping sector moves more than 80% of global trade and is a crucial component of the global economy. As a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic this sector, and in particular the seafarers who drive it, are facing severe challenges in making the necessary crew changes of seafarers. This is due, among other reasons, to restrictions on travel, embarkation and disembarkation in ports; quarantine measures; reductions in available flights; and limits on the issuing of visas and passports.
It is because of the sacrifices of seafarers, who have continued working after their contracts have expired, that ports have remained open for trade, so allowing cargo operations to be carried out in a timely manner and goods to continue to circulate smoothly. The world owes a great debt to seafarers for maintaining supply chains throughout the pandemic.
Actions taken by many governments that limit or prevent ship operators from conducting crew changes is the single most pressing maritime operational challenge to the safe and efficient movement of global trade. This has created a humanitarian crisis, with approximately 300,000 seafarers trapped working aboard ships who cannot be repatriated, and an equal number of unemployed seafarers ashore because they are unable to board ships. Those on board have had their contracts extended, sometimes beyond 17 months, and are facing fatigue and physical and mental health issues, leading to fears of self-harm and suicide. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Labour Organization (ILO) and International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) have received thousands of urgent calls for help from seafarers and their families.
Governments around the world have been asked to bring the contents of this joint statement to the attention of the competent authorities and all others concerned.
Unlike an emergency situation on land, when a ship faces a crisis at sea, Masters cannot simply dial the emergency services for instant assistance. They take responsibility for dealing with the situation, acting decisively to protect lives and prevent or minimise damage to the ship, environment and cargo.
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) have worked in partnership to provide the industry with a practical guide
Peril at Sea and Salvage: A Guide for Masters outlines the actions a Master should take when confronted with an emergency: from the initial assessment and immediate actions, through to towage or salvage arrangements, as may be necessary. It also explains the importance of prompt notification to relevant parties with onshore support, particularly coastal States and the company.
A section is included with recommendations for a company’s shore-based personnel.
Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping commented: ‘Over the years we have seen a reduction in shipping emergencies and major incidents due to the development of regulations governing the safe operation and management of ships. Crews are regularly trained in emergency response preparedness and the industry has adopted a compliance culture.
According to a media briefing from IMO the key project to support the reduction of GHG emissions from shipping in developing countries through regional maritime technology cooperation centres has been extended to June 2021.
Known as the Global MTCC Network (GMN) Project this implemented by IMO and funded by the European Union.
There is a global network of Maritime Technology Cooperation Centres (MTCCs). These undertake pilot projects and promote technologies and operations to improve energy efficiency in the maritime sector, it is reported.
Since their establishment three years ago, the MTCCs in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific have established strong regional networks and are becoming important regional players, with technical expertise in the field of maritime energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions knowledge.
These Centres have undertaken a range of pilot projects, completed port energy audits and established branch offices in three countries. IMO report that more than 50 capacity building activities have brought together a total 2,400 delegates from various parts of the maritime sector.