The secretary general of the United Nations (UN) has called on all countries to formally designate seafarers and other marine personnel as key workers, to ensure that crew changes can safely take place.
In a statement on 12 June 2020, secretary general António Guterres voiced his concern at the 'growing humanitarian and safety crisis facing seafarers around the world.
'As a result of COVID-related travel restrictions, hundreds of thousands of the world's two million seafarers have been stranded at sea for months. Unable to get off ships, the maximum sea time stipulated in international conventions is being ignored, with some seafarers marooned at sea for 15 months.'
UN agencies, including the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), have worked with the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) to develop protocols for safe crew changes.
Those protocols should now be in place to meet the Joint Negotiating Group's (JNG) June 15 deadline.
Mr Guterres called on 'all governments to urgently implement these protocols, allowing stranded seafarers to repatriate and others to join ships'.
Shipping transports more than 80% of world trade, including vital medical supplies, food and other basic goods that are critical for the COVID-19 response and recovery. This ongoing crisis will have direct consequences on the shipping industry.
The secretary general said: 'The world could not function without the efforts of seafarers, yet their contributions go largely unheralded; they deserve far greater support at any time but especially now.'