Coronavirus poses major challenges for seafarers, says Intercargo

The imposition by authorities of travel restrictions and lockdown of cities, provinces and countries across the world is creating significant problems for crew members on cargo vessels globally, reports Intercargo.

The association reminded societies and nations that, without merchant ships and seafarers, cargoes could not be transported between continents. “Dry bulk carriers remain the workhorses of international shipping, which transports approximately 90% of world trade, serving essential needs such as food and energy: main and minor dry bulks include cereals, grains, agricultural and forest products, as well as iron and other mineral ores, coal and fertilisers, and several other basic goods serving infrastructure for the well-being of populations”, Intercargo said.

The Association said that it wished to highlight the logistical challenges with the repatriation of seafarers who had completed their sea service and wanted to rejoin their families. “Though their colleague seafarers are standing by on shore in their home country, the relief process is stalled as many port states have imposed local regulations, travel and quarantine restrictions due to Covid-19, despite the IMO circulars to be mindful of free access to seafarers. In many cases neither the seafarers nor the companies know for how long these may prevail. While our Association totally supports IMO’s and other stakeholders’ issued Guidance, such as on Operational Considerations For Managing Covid-19 Cases On Board Ships, also disseminated via our website, INTERCARGO urges IMO Member States and all Port States to adopt a pragmatic approach in assisting shipowners and seafarers to overcome these challenges by removing undue hindrance for seafarers to leave or join a ship in their ports”, Intercargo said.

It noted that, without efficient crew changes, the supply chain would break down, and this could lead to basic product shortages and greater hardships for people around the world. “It is paramount to consider the mental state of seafarers, who look forward to re-uniting with their families after serving four-to nine months on board a ship, as well as the adverse repercussions on the safe navigation and operation of ships. Banning crew changes in ports brings high risks to crews, ships, ports and society”, the association warned