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Stakeholders take upon themselves to facilitate crew change and contain omicron

Delta variant

Shipowners, seafarer unions and employer establish quarantine facilities

COVID-19-induced border restrictions massively impacted crew change, and prompted many stakeholders to take things to their own hands for the sake of sustaining operations. By setting up their own quarantine facilities, crew change can still take place.

Getting around border restrictions
The industry is still reeling from the crew change crisis in 2020, which witnessed 400,000 seafarers working onboard beyond their contracts. The International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC), International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) banded together to form the Crew Enhanced Quarantine International Programme (#CrewEQUIP). This programme will round up a cluster of hotels available for quarantine, with the aim of getting around tricky border restrictions without compromising immigration protocols, especially with the current omicron threat.

#CrewEQUIP will enable shipping companies, operators and agents to sponsor pre-embarkation quarantine facilities for seafarers to be considered for recognition. Facilities must meet #CrewEQUIP’s stringent standards for hygiene, testing integrity and data security. They must also pass inspections by Lloyd’s Register – the programme’s recognised external auditor to become and remain recognised #CrewEQUIP providers.

Captain Belal Ahmed, Chairman of IMEC remarked, “IMEC is very pleased to partner with the ICS and ITF to create this high-quality quarantine facility programme. Seafarers continue to be severely disrupted by the pandemic. This programme will give the industry more confidence to support the regular movement of seafarers, with a considerably lessened risk of COVID-19 being introduced to a vessel.

David Heindel, Chair of the ITF Seafarers’ Section added, “A successful crew change needs everything to line up across the port states, transit countries, and the right facilities available in place. Currently, even minor alterations to a government’s border, health or quarantine policies can bring a planned crew change to a halt. It often leaves a seafarer with no options but to continue working onboard. Many seafarers will miss Christmas and other important events in the coming weeks. Thorough programmes like CrewEQUIP, enable unions and the industry provide a robust system that reduces at least one of the factors which jeopardises successful crew changes. We encourage all responsible shipowners and employers to get behind.”

Lastly, Guy Platten, ICS’ Secretary General said: “ICS is delighted to work in partnership with IMEC and ITF on this programme. #CrewEquip will make the quarantine process smoother for both seafarers and shipowners, plus ensure high standards are upheld. However, world leaders need to urgently provide a long-term solution to protect the crew from impacts by ever-changing travel and quarantine restrictions. Coordinated action must be taken to exempt transport workers from travel restrictions and prioritise them for vaccinations and boosters.”

Crewing Online News Team
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