UN agencies call for urgent action on crew changes and keyworker designation for sea workers

The heads of the maritime, labour and aviation organizations of the United Nations have issued a plea for urgent action on crew changes and for keyworker designation so that sea and air workers can be relieved and repatriated in a safe way during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a joint statement, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) advised that from the middle of June 2020, around 150,000 seafarers a month will require international flights to ensure crew changeovers can take place. Half of these seafarers need to be repatriated home by aircraft, the other half will be joining ships.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, large numbers of seafarers, as well as crews of fishing vessels, have had to extend their service on board ships after many months at sea, unable to be replaced or repatriated after long tours of duty. This is unsustainable, both for the safety and wellbeing of seafarers and the safe operation of maritime trade.

“For humanitarian reasons – and the need to comply with international safety and employment regulations – crew changes cannot be postponed indefinitely,” the statement said. “We are seeking the support of Governments to facilitate crew changes, operations essential to maintain the global cargo supply chains and operations related to humanitarian aid, medical and relief flights.”

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