The United Nations has adopted a resolution that calls on its members to designate seafarers and other marine personnel as key workers and implement relevant measures to allow stranded seafarers to be repatriated and others to join ships.

The UN pointed to the need for an urgent and concrete response from all stakeholders, including the private sector, to resolve the crew change crisis resulting from national travel restrictions introduced across the globe as a result of the pandemic.

The resolution, entitled “International cooperation to address challenges faced by seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to support global supply chains”, was presented at the 75th Session of the UN’s General Assembly held on December 1.

The document encourages governments and relevant stakeholders to implement IMO-recognized protocols to ensure safe ship crew changes and travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sadly, hundreds of thousands of seafarers, who are vital to maintaining supply chains, remain stranded at sea for months beyond their contracted time. This is causing immense strain, fatigue and exhaustion and is unsustainable. I hope that this call to action will result in positive momentum to resolve the crew change crisis,” International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General Kitack Lim said.

“I am grateful to those countries who have already taken steps to designate seafarers as key workers and to all UN agencies and industry partners who have been working tirelessly to find ways to resolve the difficult situation.” 

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Lim said that the keyworker designation should ensure seafarers and maritime workers receive priority vaccination, to allow them to work and maintain vital global supply chains.

“I hope that the keyworker designation will ensure that seafarers can be vaccinated expeditiously. This will go some way to resolving the ongoing crew change crisis,” Lim said. 

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) welcomed the resolution, saying it was a significant step in recognizing the crucial role that 2,000,000 sailors play in transporting food, medicine, energy supplies, and other essential raw materials across the globe.

“We welcome the news that the UN General Assembly has passed a resolution urging the classification of all seafarers as key workers and commend the Indonesian government for spearheading this resolution,” Guy Platten, Secretary-General of the ICS, said.

“The International Chamber of Shipping understands that 44 UN member states currently classify seafarers as ‘key workers’. While this resolution is a positive step, clearly there is much more to be done. Governments must now leverage their considerable power to persuade others to follow suit and classify their seafarers as key workers.

“As we head towards the holiday season the shipping industry is doing its bit with the launch of the Seafarers Delivering Christmas campaign. We now call on all governments to answer the seafarers’ Christmas wish and designate them as key workers and end the crew change crisis.”

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