Though the number of repatriations halved from September 2020, a rebound remains possible
International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Secretary-general Kitack Lim warned the crew change crisis caused by COVID-19 remains far from over. He quoted an analysis revealing a decline in number of seafarers needing repatriation to 200,000 as at March 2021, from 400,000 in September 2020. Unfortunately, a large number of seafarers are waiting to join ships as well. Lim alerted this number may rebound – predominantly attributed to delayed vaccinations.
Push to prioritise seafarers as key workers
Lim said in a statement: “Hundreds of thousands of seafarers were forced to work long beyond their contracted time. We estimated that between the last months of 2020 and up to the beginning of 2021, 400,000 seafarers still needed to be repatriated, with a similar number needing to join ships.
“Thanks to concerted efforts by Governments, shipowners and others, this figure is now estimated at 200,000 seafarers needing repatriation and a similar number needing to join ships. One of the major achievements contributing to this was adopting the United Nations Assembly’s resolution calling on UN Member States to designate seafarers and marine personnel as keyworkers, implement relevant measures facilitating repatriation and new crew’s joining, plus ensured access to medical care.”
However, Lim warned of complacence. “Fewer than 60 countries heeded our call for seafarers to be designated as key workers. More countries need to do so if we are to resolve this crisis and ensure seafarers’ fair treatment through proper facilitating travel to and from their place of work. There is still a long way to go before we are back to a normal crew change regime,” he highlighted.
Thanking all seafarers for their efforts to sustain world trade, Lim assured IMO will work with its sister United Nations agencies, government and industry bodies to address the ongoing needs of seafarers. “We will also be looking towards taking the lessons learnt going forward, to be better prepared in the future.”