A NEW global pledge, the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change, aims to end the ongoing crew-change crisis. Signatories include BP, Cargill, Rio Tinto and Shell. 

Those who took up declaration pledged to deliver on a shared responsibility to resolve a crisis which has seen many of the world’s seafarers pushed into what the International Workers’ Federation says amounts to forced labour. 

Signatories of the Neptune Declaration committed to act including calling industry peers and governments to: 

  • recognise seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to COVID-19 vaccines; 
  • establish and implement gold standard health protocols based on existing best practice; 
  • increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes; and 
  • ensure air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers. 

ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton welcomed the commitments of the 327 companies and organisations that signed the Neptune Declaration, an initiative led by the Global Maritime Forum. 

“The ITF welcomes the commitment from shipowners, charterers, investors, NGOs and industry groups in signing the Neptune Declaration, and now there is an expectation that words are turned into action,” Mr Cotton said. 

“With the rise of new variants of COVID, we are sadly seeing governments backsliding and bringing in more restrictions. Right now is the time for every CEO, every board member, of every company that relies on global shipping, to demand that governments don’t forget the key workers driving their economies and unblock their borders to seafarers before this crisis gets worse.” 

Mr Cotton said companies must now be held to account. 

“This means no more charter parties with ‘no crew change’ clause; charterers must work with shipowners to facilitate crew changes. This means investors asking the companies they own and deal with what the companies are doing to address the crisis. And this means asking why any company in the industry didn’t sign this declaration,” he said.