THE UN General Assembly has issued a statement saying it is “deeply concerned” about the challenges being faced by the global shipping community to effect crew change and repatriation.

The statement was part of a larger resolution that also called on governments and relevant stakeholders to implement IMO-recognised protocols to ensure safe crew changes.

IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim welcomed the adoption of the resolution.

“Sadly, hundreds of thousands of seafarers, who are vital to maintaining supply chains, remain stranded at sea for months beyond their contracted time,” Mr Lim said.

“This is causing immense strain, fatigue and exhaustion and is unsustainable. I hope that this call to action will result in positive momentum to resolve the crew change crisis.”

Mr Lim said he was grateful to those countries who had already taken steps to designate seafarers as key workers.

“This is a human rights issue,” he said.

“Seafarers’ lives are being made impossible through the crew change difficulties and this can only have a detrimental effect on ship safety and on the supply chain, the longer the situation continues.”

Mr Lim said key worker designation should ensure seafarers receive priority vaccination when the COVID-19 vaccination becomes available.

Shipping Australia deputy CEO Melwyn Noronha welcomed the resolution, albeit adding a caveat.

“Whilst it is welcome that the UN has adopted this resolution, it is vital that all of Australia’s state and territory governments also recognise seafarers as key workers,” Mr Noronha said in a statement published on the SAL website.

“They must facilitate crew changes and the ability of seafarers to go home to their families after many months of service at sea.”