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SHIPPING AND AIR TRANSPORT JOIN FORCES TO KEEP SUPPLY ROUTES OPEN

Friday, April 17, 2020 

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) are jointly calling on governments to take urgent measures to facilitate crew change flights for seafarers.

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, seafarers are having to extend their service onboard ships after many months at sea, unable to be replaced following long tours of duty or return home. Each month about 100,000 merchant seafarers need to be changed over from the ships on which they operate to ensure compliance with international maritime regulations protecting safety, health and welfare.

As a result of government-imposed travel restrictions due to COVID-19, flights to repatriate or position marine personnel are unavailable. Immigration and health screening protocols are also hampering the ability of merchant ships to conduct vitally necessary crew changes. IATA and ICS are working together to come forward with safe and pragmatic solutions that governments can implement to facilitate crew changes at certain airports.

“Seafarers are unsung heroes who everyday throughout this COVID-19 crisis are going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that countries are kept supplied with the goods they need. We are working with the airlines to come forward with solutions. We now need governments to support our seafarers and facilitate safe passage for them to get home to loved ones and be replaced by crew members ready to keep supply chains open,” said ICS Secretary General, Guy Platten (pictured).

ICS and IATA are calling on all governments to designate a specific and limited number of crew change airports for the safe movement and repatriation of crew. Priority airports should include those close to major shipping lanes which also have direct air connections to principal seafarer countries of residence, such as China, India and the Philippines as well as destinations in western and eastern Europe.

Aviation and shipping companies face common challenges in carrying out crew changes while complying with immigration and quarantine restrictions introduced by most governments around the world. ICS points out that aviation and maritime transport are the lifeblood of the global economy, moving the world’s goods and products which are necessary to allow society to continue to function efficiently throughout the COVID-19 crisis. By volume, some 90% of global trade is delivered by ship, while airlines carry, in addition to passengers, some 35% of global trade by value, including critical medicines and medical supplies.

G20 governments, at their recent emergency meetings, committed to “minimise disruptions to trade and global supply chains” and identified the need to prioritize keeping air and sea logistics networks open and functioning efficiently. These networks will grind to a halt if replacement crews are unavailable for duty.

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