Kenya, has accepted seafarers crew change through the Port of Mombasa after the COVID 19 pandemic forced maritime states to closes their borders, leaving thousands of sailors stranded aboard ships in the high-seas for months.
Kenya now joins 13 countries that agreed to the new international measures to open up borders for seafarers and to increase the number of commercial flights to expedite seafarers’ repatriation efforts following an international crew change summit held in London 9th July, 2020.
Kenya, thus becomes the second African country to bow to the pressure by the international communities to have maritime states open their borders for thousands of seafarers who had been denied entry into foreign countries due to the corona virus.
Djibouti carried out the first crew change of merchant sailors in its territory on July 3rd, 2020 and is ready to do more as more seafarers look forward to joining their loved ones on land who have been stranded by the coronavirus, a senior port official said.
Lying on the Bab al-Mandab strait, which is one of the world’s busiest shipping chokepoints, Djibouti is a critical transit hub. More than 2,500 ships transit and call at its ports annually.
Continued complications with changing over ship crews due to coronavirus restrictions in some jurisdictions is still affecting supply chains despite an easing of lockdown in many parts of the world.
Some 400,000 seafarers are affected on land or on ships – with many at sea for longer than an 11-month limit laid out in a maritime labor convention.
Mr. Kitack Lim, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Secretary General in a letter to the Kenya government dated 14th July, 2020 expressed his appreciation for Kenya’s effort to facilitate crew changes and in particular, designating Mombasa as the hub port for the same and for issuing protocols in line with the IMO circular letter No.4204 of 5th May, 2020.
“ I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the positive between Kenya and IMO and wish to thank you for supporting IMO’s call to protect seafarers’ wellbeing,” Mr. Lim stated in the letter addressed to Mrs Nancy Karigithu, the Principal Secretary, State Department for Shipping and Maritime in the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, and Urban Development.
Last week’s crew change summit saw 13 nations pledge to come to the aid of thousands of seafaring crew around the world.
These included Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States of America, all of whom now recognise seafarers as key workers.
The International Maritime Organization has created a 12-step process for states to adopt to make crew changes safe and efficient.
Reacting to the news from the keenly anticipated summit, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) called on the world’s governments to act swiftly to give seafarers visa, border and quarantine exemptions in order to make crew changes possible and resolve the present crisis.
*African Shipping Review