Coinciding with the start of the 2021 World Economic Forum, more than 300 companies from a broad range of industries across the globe are coming together to add their voice to the other organizations seeking to call attention to the humanitarian issues and challenges seafarers are facing caused by the restrictions implemented to control the COVID-19 pandemic. Saying that the current issues are not an acceptable way to treat seafarers, the global companies and organizations are committing to take action to resolve the crew change crisis while calling on peers and other stakeholders, in particular relevant government bodies, to join the efforts.
“We, the signatories to The Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change, recognize that we have a shared responsibility to ensure that the current crew change crisis is resolved as soon as possible and to use the learnings from the crisis as an opportunity to build a more resilient maritime supply chain,” says the declaration. The companies in the effort include A.P. Møller – Mærsk, BP, BW, Cargill, COSCO, DOW, Euronav, MISC Group, NYK, Rio Tinto, Shell, Trafigura, Unilever, and Vale.
The companies recognize the significant efforts by international organizations, unions, companies, and governments to resolve the crew change crisis, but they write that are concerned that the situation will get worse as governments bring in more travel bans in response to the new strains of the Covid-19 virus. They highlight national authorities around the world that continue to see crew changes and international travel as a Covid-19 risk along with the failure to consistently implement the health protocols by ship operators and governments. The disruption of international air travel has also reduced the number of flights between traditional crew change hubs and major seafaring nations.
“We believe that the most effective way of addressing the crew change challenge and building a more resilient maritime logistics chain, is by working together across the value chain with industry stakeholders, organizations, and with governments to implement solutions that work in practice,” the declaration says.
Many of the actions that they outline continue the themes that have been expressed repeatedly by the unions, global organizations, the IMO, and the UN. The four main actions outlined in the declaration to facilitate crew changes and keep global supply chains functioning include recognizing seafarers as key workers. They are also calling for seafarers to be given priority to COVID-19 vaccines.
They expanded on some of the previous calls saying that based on existing best practices, the standard health protocols should be established. This would provide a universal framework to guide safe crew changes. In addition, they are also calling on the aviation industry to work with the maritime sector to ensure that airlift capacity is maintained between major crew change hubs and seafaring nations.
Finally, they are calling for increased collaboration between ship operators and charterers. The declaration states that ship owners and charterers should share relevant information and collaborate to ensure that necessary crew changes can be carried out. The owner should provide the charterer with as much notice as possible on intended crew changes, while the charterer should make all reasonable efforts to accommodate crew changes including when the vessel has to make a reasonable deviation.
“Keeping people safe while keeping food, material for the manufacture and administering of vaccines, and other essential goods moving efficiently is key for global supply chain continuity, trade, and our everyday lives,” said Margi Van Gogh, Head of Supply Chain and Transport, Shaping the Future of Mobility, World Economic Forum speaking as a signer of the declaration. “Unified, prompt action from governments and other key stakeholders is needed to protect the lives and livelihoods of the 1.4 million seafaring men and women who serve us all across the seas, and who continue to face extreme risk to their safety and earnings.”
The Neptune Declaration has been developed by a task force of stakeholders from across the maritime value chain including A. M. Nomikos, Cargill, Dorian LPG, GasLog, Global Maritime Forum, International Chamber of Shipping, International Maritime Employers’ Council, International Transport Workers’ Federation, ONE, Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Sustainable Shipping Initiative, Synergy Group, V. Group, and World Economic Forum.