The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the shipping industry and seafarers themselves over the past few years. IMO is working tirelessly at all levels to find solutions.
Key worker designation
Travel restrictions imposed by governments around the world and restricted access to vaccines have created significant hurdles to crew changes and repatriation of seafarers. This has humanitarian and safety implications. IMO has urged its Member States to designate seafarers as key workers, so they can travel between the ships that constitute their workplace, and their countries of residence.
For the latest list, please click Circular Letter No.4204/Add.35/Rev.12 - Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Designation of seafarers as key workers'.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has named seafarers as one of the groups of transportation workers to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination in instances of limited supplies. The updated guidance (Juy 2021) for Stage II of its vaccine roadmap from the WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) states: "Seafarers and air crews who work on vessels that carry goods and no passengers, with special attention to seafarers who are stranded at sea and prevented from crossing international borders for crew change due to travel restrictions." Download WHO SAGE Roadmap for prioritizing COVID-19 vaccines here.
You can also read information about Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations here: ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations.
IMO help for seafarers
IMO has established a Seafarer Crisis Action Team (SCAT) to help seafarers out of a variety of critical situations. If you or a loved one would like IMO assistance from the SCAT team, please email email@example.com
Contact information for the National focal points on crew change and repatriation of seafarers can be found via the GISIS module on crew change and repatriation of seafarers. (free to access, registration required).
Resolutions to support seafarers
The following resolutions have been adopted to encourage actions to support seafarers during the COVID-19 crisis:
- Assembly Resolution (A.1160(32)) on Comprehensive action required to address seafarers’ challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. (December 2021)
IMO Maritime Safety Committee Resolution (MSC.490(103) on Recommended actions to prioritize seafarers in national COVID-19 vaccination programmes. (May 2021)
- UN General Assembly Resolution (A/75/L.37) on International cooperation to address challenges faced by seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to support global supply chains. (December 2020)
- IMO Maritime Safety Committee Resolution MSC.473(ES.2) on Recommended action to facilitate ship crew change, access to medical care and seafarer travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. (September 2020)
Advice for IMO Member States, seafarers and shipping
IMO issued a number of circular letters (CL series 4204) over the course of the pandemic to provide guidance for Member States, seafareres, shipping companies and other stakeholders. Read them here.
Communications received from Member States and Associate MembersIMO has received, and circulated, communications from Member States and Associate Members Communications
Click here to view full list of communications received by country and subject.
Download PDF - Table overview: List of Circular Letters with COVID-19 related notifications received from Member States (updated weekly).
IMO has published a number of press briefings - some of which touch upon on key issues related to the pandemic, including crew changes, repatriation of seafarers and meetings postponement: click here to visit our press briefings page.
IMO Meetings / IMO Headquarters updates
Click for the meetings schedule.
Circular Letter No.4213/Add.7 (6 June 2022) - Resumption of in-person meetings
Update on the status of the International Maritime Organization Headquarters building and telecommuting arrangements due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Circular Letter No.4220 (latest version) - Access to the IMO Headquarters building, latest requirements.
Read more - Information and resources from external sources
The following links also provide advice and information to seafarers and shipping (this list is not intended to a be complete reflection of all available information) - IMO is not responsible for the information in these websites:
- BIMCO - https://www.bimco.org/covid19
- Chemical Distribution Institute (CDI), Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF), INTERTANKO - Temporary Covid-19 Precautions During an Inspection (PDF)
- Chemical Distribution Institute (CDI), Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF), INTERTANKO - Temporary Guidelines for Conducting a Vessel Inspection During Covid-19 (PDF)
- EMSA - http://emsa.europa.eu/news-a-press-centre/covid19.html
- EMSA - Impact of COVID-19 on the Maritime Sector in the EU (download report)
- European Commission - Guidelines on protection of health, repatriation and travel arrangements for seafarers, passengers and other persons on board - https://transport.ec.europa.eu/news-events/news/coronavirus-guidance-repatriating-cruise-ship-passengers-and-protecting-ship-crews-2020-04-08_en
- European Commission - Guidelines on protection of health, repatriation and travel arrangements for seafarers, passengers and other persons on board ships (PDF download)
- European Commission - Guidelines concerning the exercise of the free movement of workers during COVID-19 outbreak (PDF download)
- Global Maritime Forum - Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator www.globalmaritimeforum.org/neptune-declaration
- IACS - http://www.iacs.org.uk/covid-19/
- ICMA - COVID-19 vaccines for seafarers https://icma.as/vaccines/
- Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) - Code of Conduct for Delivering on Seafarers' Rights and practical Self-Assessment Questionnaire (RightShip)
- International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) - Coronavirus (COVID-19) Roadmap for Vaccination of International Seafarers
- International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) - Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccination for Seafarers and Shipping Companies: A Practical Guide
- International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) - Coronavirus (COVID-19) Legal, Liability and Insurance Issues arising from Vaccination of Seafarers (Second Edition)
- International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) - Coronavirus (COVID-19) – ICS Guidance for Ship Operators for the Protection of the Health of Seafarers
- International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) - Handling a Mental Health Crisis or Emergency and Spotting Suicidal Behaviour in Seafarers
- International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) - Coronavirus (COVID-19): Seafarer Shore Leave Principles
- International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) - Faith and Burial for Seafarers
- International Labour Organization (ILO) - COVID-19 and maritime shipping & fishing - https://www.ilo.org/sector/Resources/publications/WCMS_742026/lang--en/index.htm
- International Labour Organization (ILO) - Information note on maritime labour issues and coronavirus (COVID-19) (PDF)
- International Maritime Health Association (IMHA) - advice for shipping companies on the new type of coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
- INTERTANKO - Outbreak Management Plan: COVID-19 (Download PDF) (Rev.5 February 2022)
- INTERTANKO - COVID-19 Tanker Recovery Management Plan ( Download PDF )
- INTERTANKO - Crew Change Management Plan ( Download PDF )
- INTERTANKO - Crew Welfare Management and Mental Wellness (Download PDF)
- ISWAN - VIDEO "Managing Your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic - A guide for seafarers" on YouTube. Mental health tools are also available to download free of charge from the ISWAN website at https://www.seafarerswelfare.org/seafarer-health-information-programme/good-mental-health
- International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) - COVID-19 update for transport workers: https://www.itfglobal.org/en/focus/covid-19
- USCG - https://www.uscg.mil/coronavirus/
- PortVisitor - welfare information by port - www.portvisitor.com/
- S5 - port restrictions map - http://tiny.cc/zz07lz
- Safety4Sea - https://safety4sea.com/cm-how-coronavirus-affects-shipping-everything-you-need-to-know/
- Steamship Mutual et al - VIDEO - Coronavirus - Stay Safe on Board - https://www.steamshipmutual.com/loss-prevention/stay_safe_on_board_0420.htm
- Swedish Club - COVID-19 Handbook - https://www.swedishclub.com/films-and-publications/publications/loss-prevention-and-brochures/
- UNCTAD - Ports in the Fight against COVID-19 - https://tft.unctad.org/thematic-areas/port-management/ports-in-the-fight-against-covid-19/
- WaterFront - Covid-19 - Crew Change Impact (19 january 2022) - https://www.waterfront-ms.com/covid-19-crew-change-impact/
- World Ports COVID-19 Information Portal - https://sustainableworldports.org/world-ports-covid19-information-portal/
World Health Organization
Please note: The WHO Director-General determines that COVID-19 is now an established and ongoing health issue which no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). Read more: Statement on the fifteenth meeting of the IHR (2005) Emergency Committee on the COVID-19 pandemic (5 May 2023).
Click here for Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations information: ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued comprehensive guidance on topics such as infection prevention and control; critical preparedness, readiness and response, and ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
- Standing recommendations of WHO valid until 30 April 2025 (9 August 2023)
- WHO Coronavirus dashboard (cases, vaccination by country) https://covid19.who.int/
- To read WHO advice for the public,
- To access WHO country and technical guidance,
The WHO has also published specific guidance related to and relevant to travel and shipping in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes:
- Technical considerations for implementing a risk-based approach to international travel in the context of COVID-19: Interim guidance (July 2021)
- An implementation guide for the management of COVID-19 on board cargo ships and fishing vessels: interim guidance, December 2021
- Digital documentation of COVID-19 certificates: vaccination status: technical specifications and implementation guidance (August 2021)
- Annex: Risk assessment tool to inform mitigation measures for international travel in the context of COVID-19 (December 2020)
- Scientific brief: COVID-19 diagnostic testing in the context of international travel (December 2020)
- Operational considerations for managing COVID-19 cases/outbreak on board ships (March 2020)