A humanitarian, Safety, and Economic Crisis. Seafarers have been the unsung heroes of this pandemic, as the world relies on them to transport more than 80% of trade by volume, including vital food and medical goods, energy and raw materials, as well as manufactured goods across the globe.
They have also been collateral victims of the crisis, as travel restrictions have left tens of thousands of them stranded on ships, or unable to join ships.
As of March 2021, it is estimated that some 200,000 seafarers remain onboard commercial vessels, unable to be repatriated and past the expiry of their contracts. A similar number of seafarers urgently need to join ships to replace them.
On any given day, nearly one million seafarers are working on some 60,000 large cargo vessels worldwide.
What does international law say about the right of seafarers to be repatriated?
Regulation 2.5 of ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) states that seafarers have a right to be repatriated at the end of their contracts. Under the MLC, flag States have a responsibility towards the right of seafarers to be repatriated and port States have an obligation to facilitate such repatriation as well as the replacement of seafarers.
ILO has indicated that these obligations must be respected during the pandemic without prejudice for the need to take measures to prevent contagion.
ILO’s 2006 Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) states that the maximum continuous period a seafarer should serve on board a vessel without leave is 11 months. This period may be exceeded in situations of “force majeure”, but any extension must be accompanied by appropriate safeguards to avoid any abuse and protect seafarers’ rights.
According to ILO, thousands of seafarers have been required to remain on board beyond the 11-month maximum period. In some instances, seafarers have not been able to go home for 18 months.
Why are crew changes so important?
Crew changes are vital to prevent fatigue and protect seafarers’ health, safety, and wellbeing – thereby ensuring the safe operation of maritime trade. They cannot be postponed indefinitely.
The duration of seafarers’ contracts varies, but they typically work between four and six months on ships, followed by a period of leave. When at sea, they often work 10-12 hours shifts, 7 days a week – performing tasks that require constant professional attention.
Seafarers spending extended periods onboard are more at risk of adverse health effects, including physical and mental health issues. Thousands of seafarers stranded onboard ships have already expressed their exhaustion, fatigue, anxiety, and mental stress. And a physically and mentally fatigued seafarer has a much higher risk of being involved in a marine casualty.
Cruise ships have faced particular challenges, with much larger numbers of people on board (both seafarers and passengers) compared to cargo ships. They may have thousands of passengers and crew, while even the biggest cargo ships may only have some 20 crew on board.
Most cruise lines stopped sailings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and have since been working to disembark and repatriate their passengers and crew.
What’s the solutions?
Indonesia has been supporting a number of ASEAN and UN programs for seafarers, who contribute significantly to the national economy, including provision of COVID-19 vaccines to them, according to a senior official.
Indonesia agrees that seafarers are key workers. Starting from a Joint Statement at the International Maritime Virtual Summit on Crew Changes on July 9, 2020, Indonesia has recognized the importance of the role of seafarers as the backbone of the economy,” Capt. Hermanta, director of shipping and maritime affairs at the directorate general of sea transportation under the Ministry of Transportation, said in a press statement released on Saturday. Tempo, Jakarta 22 Juli 2021
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Balancia shipping has managed Crew Change more than 110 ships since July 2020. We made big SMILE for the Ship’s Owner, Ship’s Operator, Ship management, Ship Charterer, and Seafarer. www.balancia.co.id/shipping
Why you should be decided Batam Port for crew change?
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