The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) are jointly calling on governments to designate crew change airports to ensure the safe movement and repatriation of crew during the Covid-19 pandemic, the groups said today.
Flights to repatriate or position marine personnel are unavailable due to government-imposed travel restrictions related to Covid-19, and the situation is causing health and safety concerns as well as threatening global supply chains, the groups said. Each month, roughly 100,000 merchant seafarers need to be changed over from the ships on which they operate to ensure compliance with international maritime regulations protecting safety, health, and welfare, the group said. With no flights available, workers are extending their service time onboard ships after months at sea, unable to be replaced by new personnel.
“Seafarers are unsung heroes who everyday throughout this Covid-19 crisis are going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that countries are kept supplied with the goods they need. We are working with the airlines to come forward with solutions. We now need governments to support our seafarers and facilitate safe passage for them to get home to loved ones and be replaced by crew members ready to keep supply chains open,” ICS Secretary General Guy Platten said in a statement Wednesday.
IATA and ICS said they are developing recommendations for standardized procedures and protocols that can address the crew change problems while also preventing further spread of Covid-19. Looking at solutions, they said priority airports should include those close to major shipping lanes that also have direct air connections to principal seafarer countries of residence, such as China, India, and the Philippines as well as destinations in Western and Eastern Europe.
“Airlines have been required to cut passenger services in the fight to stop the spread of Covid-19. But if Governments identify airports that seafarers can use for crew changes and make appropriate adjustments to current health and immigration protocols, airlines can help keep global logistics moving,” Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said in the joint statement.