The Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change garnered over 300 organisations’ and companies’ support in addressing crew change crisis
Maritime is known to facilitate 90 per cent of global trade through distribution of merchandise by sea.
Last year’s crew change crisis resulted in countless seafarers stranded both onshore and offshore. Imposed travel bans halted signing off, and left dozens on the other side waiting without pay to commence. Fatigue and stress of remaining onboard for prolonged periods led to compromised physical and wellbeing. The crisis also heightened risks of maritime incidents and environmental disasters.
The push for change
The Neptune Declaration is developed by a taskforce of stakeholders across the maritime value chain. They include 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.
Jeremy Nixon, CEO of Japan-based ONE, said: “We are witnessing a humanitarian crisis at sea. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, seafarers have kept the world supplied with food, energy and other vital goods, with no line of sight of when to go home to their families. They have become hostage of the situation and unable to disembark from their ships. Yet, we can put an end to the crew change crisis without any risk to the general public health.”
The new strain of COVID-19 worsened the existing dire conditions through newly imposed travel bans. Voices from international organisations, unions, companies and some governments were not sufficient to prompt more constructive moves to assist seafarers. According to The Global Maritime Forum who participates in developing the declaration, the major components hindering crew change are:
- Perceiving crew change and international travel as a COVID-19 risk
- Ship operators’ inconsistent implementing of high-quality health protocols
- Reduced flight frequencies to crew change hubs and major seafaring nations; significantly slowing down crew change
Addressing crew change crisis
The declaration identifies four main actions to facilitate crew changes and continual functioning of global supply chains:
- Recognise seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to Covid-19 vaccines
- Establish and implement gold standard health protocols based on existing best practices
- Increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes
- Ensure air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers
To date, more than 300 companies and organisations across maritime, oil, and commodity trading industries have expressed their support by signing the declaration. It will be discussed at the Davos Dialogues, organised by the World Economic Forum.
Graham Westgarth, Chairman of V. Group said: “Seafarers play a significant role in the global race to halt the coronavirus pandemic by providing critical medical supplies to the world’s population, particularly in developing economies. They are crucial to millions of peoples’ wellbeing. We call on our peers, government bodies and other stakeholders to join us in our efforts to ensure that the rights and wellbeing of the frontline workers of global supply chains are respected.”