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Tuesday, February 2, 2021 

A worldwide network of crew change hubs would help alleviate the humanitarian crisis faced by seafarers at present, according to the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ).

The hubs could offer a short-term solution to the barriers presented by global travel restrictions, ensuring vital crew changes could take place and facilitating trade and logistics to the benefit of the world economy, the Flag State advised.

Rear Admiral (ret’d) Peter Brady, MAJ Director General, said: “In the Caribbean for example, several smaller States still have not re-opened their borders, so no one is coming in and no one is going out. With a hub, seafarers would be able to move and to move more freely. Some natural crew change hubs already exist pre-Covid-19, by virtue of the concentration of shipping, and we suggest that more could be developed to deal with the current stagnation of crew travel in parts of the world. Whether they are then retained in the long term would be subject to global strategy and based on assessment by industry of their costs and benefits.”

Adm Brady added that a future challenge will be motivating seafarers to continue this career in light of the crises and hardships they have endured during the pandemic. He said: “The industry and individual companies must take steps to address crew retention by improving and increasing welfare benefits to seafarers onboard. Introduce benefits such as access to gymnasiums, to internet connections to enable crew to keep in touch with their families, and provide online counselling and opportunities for studying. Access to a safe and efficient vaccine may also put ships’ crew at ease and provide some level of calm onboard. Seafarers will be less worried about the ills of the Covid-19 pandemic as they travel globally.”

In Jamaica, where the circumstances warrant and there is mutual agreement between the owner and the seafarer, MAJ has not objected to the extension of Seafarer Employment Agreement (SEA) to facilitate continuity of trade. However, MAJ encourages owners, as soon as is possible, to make the necessary arrangements for seafarers to be safely repatriated at the end of their SEA. The Government reopened its borders to enable controlled entry and transit of crew and has designated seafarers as essential workers.  Through MAJ, the country has implemented measures geared at supporting the repatriation of seafarers and crew changes in general.  To date nearly 2,300 crew changes have been facilitated.

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