Opening remarks for the UK-hosted virtual Maritime Summit on Crew Changes
9 July 2020, 12.30 pm
Kitack Lim, IMO Secretary-General
Minister, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us, with unprecedented impacts on our lives, our economies and our societies.
It is needless to say, that it is crucially important to ensure the functioning of the global supply chains and the facilitation of the safe and efficient operation of maritime transport.
In these difficult times, the ability for shipping services and seafarers to deliver vital goods, including medical supplies and food, is central to responding to, and eventually overcoming, this pandemic.
This is thanks to the more than one million seafarers operating the world's merchant ships. Their dedication and professionalism in the face of mounting challenges is worthy of our great admiration and thanks.
However, these are challenging times for many seafarers.
Over 200,000 seafarers are still waiting to be repatriated after many months at sea, having stayed beyond their original contracts. Both their physical and mental health are being put to the test.
Together with our industry partners and colleagues in the World Health Organization, and other UN agencies, like ICAO, ILO, UNCTAD, WTO, IMO has been developing and issuing practical advice and guidance on a variety of technical and operational matters to facilitate international trade, coordinate responses and facilitate crew changes.
I have personally endorsed the crew change protocols developed by a broad cross-section of maritime industry organizations to ensure safe crew changes.
The wide-ranging protocols contain recommendations to maritime administrations and other relevant national authorities, such as health, customs, immigration, border control, seaport and civil aviation authorities. They address the roles of shipping companies, agents and representatives, crewing agencies and the individual seafarers themselves, and also extend to seaports, airports and airlines involved in travel operations for ship crew changes.
It is imperative that Governments implement these protocols. To ensure their implementation, cooperation and collaboration between the various government agencies involved is essential.
It is time to act for seafarers. Safe ship operations and crew wellbeing should not be compromised. The humanitarian crisis seafarers face has implications for all of us, for the world economy and for the safety of life at sea and the environment.
I have spoken many times of our "voyage together". Never has the spirit of cooperation and collaboration been more important than it is now.
I thank the United Kingdom Government for bringing us together at this summit to address this crucial issue. I commend the United Kingdom and other IMO Member Governments who have already designated seafarers as key workers and have been working hard to facilitate crew changes. I am really looking forward to hearing how we can move forward and achieve continued, real progress for our men and women at sea.
Seafarers are delivering for us – it is time for us to deliver for them.