Looming danger in Maritime Industry due to Coronavirus
According to the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), there could be “terrible accidents” at sea if shipping crew changes continue to be blocked by coronavirus restrictions.
In a joint statement by ICS and the International Air Transport Association, it was noted that of 1.2 million crew members at sea at any one time, around 100,000 usually leave their ships every month to comply with regulations protecting their health.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has already killed more than 100,000 people and caused over 2.2 million to be sick worldwide, these necessary crew changes have been hindered.
“The issue of seafarers and their well-being is crucial, and if this problem is allowed go on for too long, you will find stress levels and health issues, and eventually there will be some terrible accidents,” said Esben Poulsson, chairman of the ICS.
Government-imposed travel restrictions have resulted in the unavailability of flights for seafarers heading home or travelling to ports. The statement also said that immigration and health screening protocols are also impeding the “vitally necessary crew changes.”
The statement explained that staff is being affected by “national restrictions designed for passengers and non-essential personnel,” and that could “unnecessarily jeopardize the ability of airlines and shipping companies to keep global supply chains operating.”
The two trade associations called on the governments to facilitate ship crew changes, and the IATA offered to help fly maritime workers to and from designated airports so that they can return home or take over from other crew members.
Poulsson referred to the situation as ‘a bit of a time bomb’. “We’ve worked with IATA … on various ways of tackling this problem, but we need governments to act, and we need them to act now,” he added.
Poulsson said Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore had allowed crew changes on a “case-by-base basis” and in “certain circumstances.”
“We just need to not only expand that, but we need other jurisdictions to go the same way.”