More than 300 large companies pledged this week to work together to help hundreds of thousands of merchant sailors trapped on ships for many months due to Covid-19. About 90% of world trade is transported by sea, and coronavirus restrictions in many countries are affecting global supply chains.
In December 2020, the UN General Assembly asked countries to designate seafarers as essential workers. However, many ship crews are still struggling to switch places with colleagues on land.
Maritime industry officials say many sailors are no longer able to cope and many have been at sea for more than 11 months.
The companies, which include transportation groups such as AP Moller Maersk, the mining companies Anglo American and Rio Tinto, the oil giants BP and Royal Dutch Shell, as well as the commercial companies Cargill, Trafigura, and Vitol, will increase information sharing since they have now signed the “Neptune Declaration.”
Signatories will also increase collaboration between shipping operators and charterers to accelerate crew changes.
The UK Chamber of Shipping Chief Executive Bob Sanguinetti said, “We are delighted to join the 350 other signatories to the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change. Seafarers have been the unsung heroes of the last year delivering the food and medicines we need but there is a humanitarian crisis at sea. The global inaction we have seen is completely unacceptable and we need governments and international organizations around the world to act now to get seafarers changed over and to put an end to this crisis.”
They have signed the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change that defines four main actions to facilitate crew changes and keep global supply chains functioning:
• Recognize seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to Covid-19 vaccines
• Establish and implement gold standard health protocols based on existing best practice
• Increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes
• Ensure air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers.