MEASURES aimed at ensuring ship crew changes can occur should be adopted by the government of the United Kingdom and others around the world, the UK Chamber of Shipping says.

Crew changes have been problematic since the onset of the pandemic and have prompted calls by the Liberian Registry for greater international cooperation.

In Australia, Maritime Safety Queensland recently published a document with crew changeover guidelines, aimed at simplifying the process.

The UK Chamber says the 12-step roadmap for crew changes, developed by the International Chamber of Shipping, would help free tens of thousands of seafarers from their COVID-19 lockdown.

UK Chamber chief executive Bob Sanguinetti said there were more than 1.2m seafarers at sea at any one time and currently 150,000 seafarers due to change over.

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“If we want to ensure supply chains remain open, and essential goods including food, fuel, raw materials and vital medical supplies continue to flow into the country, it is vital that crew changes can take place and seafarers are allowed to move between countries without imposition,” he said.

“We call on the UK government to once more lead the way and set an example to other governments.”

Mr Sanguinetti said the issue was becoming increasingly critical and taking on a humanitarian dimension for crews who had already spent many months at sea.

“Apart from the need for shipping companies to comply with international regulations and contractual obligations, service periods on board ships cannot be extended indefinitely due to the dangerous impacts this has for the health and well-being of ship crew and, most importantly, safe ship operations,” he said.

The International Maritime Organization has also released a statement calling for action.

“Shipping is vital to the maintenance of global supply chains, but the current situation is unsustainable for the safety and wellbeing of ship crew and the safe operation of maritime trade,” an IMO statement read.

“Service periods on board ships cannot be extended indefinitely due to the dangerous impacts this has for the well-being of ship crew and, most importantly, safe ship operations.”

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