17.09.2020

To initiate consideration of issue concerning repatriation and crew change crisis at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly

With such a proposal, the Seafarers' Union of Russia (SUR) turned to the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation. The letter notes that the issue of  repatriation and crew change crisis along with the  proposal to the participating States to take related concrete measures could become one of the   video address  items from the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, scheduled for September 22, 2020 at the General Assembly of the United Nations.

In our opinion, this problem could be addressed at the UN Security Council, said Yury Sukhorukov, Chairman of the SUR.

In particular, the SUR highlights the importance of the issue surrounding crew change and repatriation noting the need to ensure the shipments of cargoes and goods around the world, including medical equipment, medicines, hygiene products, since more than 80% of them are delivered by sea.

The current global crew change crisis, the mental and physical health of crew members and captains of vessels who have to work for many months without a leave directly affects the safety of international shipping, noted Yury Sukhorukov, Chairman of the SUR.

According to the Union, the industry is at risk of serious accidents and disasters due to fatigue of seafarers. That is why, given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the situation has to be considered at the highest level of international cooperation.

In particular, the SUR invites the states participating in the session to consider the possibility of crew changes at ports with the largest number of calls by vessels working on busy sea routes.

In addition, to provide the safe crew change at sea ports and at relevant airports it is needed to equip special secure terminals, establish "green" corridors to get from ship or hotel to airport  terminal and boarding area, to arrange regular flights (including charter flights, if necessary) from / to these airports for repatriation and arrival of seafarers. As you know, the International Maritime Organization has already developed recommendations for ensuring  safe embarkation of seafarers on ships and the repatriation of signed crew members, which can be used with regard to national requirements and peculiarities.

Let's remind that the current crisis has affected about 600 thousand specialists  of the merchant fleet. According to the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), based on the latest data from ships, near 300,000 crew members remain on board  around the world, and the same number of seafarers are waiting for employment on land. 

The main reasons are still the same: quarantine measures imposed by governments to deter  the spread of the pandemic and the significant reduce of international flights.

Moreover, the problem of repatriation and crew change was discussed within Seafarers Section of the International Federation of Transport Workers. At present the  Seafarers' Union of Russia  is holding consultations with colleagues from the trade unions uniting seafarers from the USA, Great Britain and France. On the eve of the UN General Assembly, they are also preparing appeals to their governments with a proposal to bring this problem to the  UN General Assembly platform.

In addition, on September 10  a joint statement calling on the governments of UN member states to immediately recognize seafarers as key workers and containing a specific list of proposed effective actions to remove obstacles to crew changes was issued and signed by the heads of the International Labor Organization, the International Maritime Organization, the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the International Organization for Migration, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the UN Global Compact and the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  It notes that this will enable the shipping sector to prevent a humanitarian crisis, ensure maritime security and contribute to economic recovery from the pandemic.

Unfortunately, to date only 19 countries have formally recognized seafarers as key workers and have committed  to introduce visa, border and quarantine exemptions for them. However, the situation has not yet found its fundamental solution.

In the meantime, the SUR welcomes the amendment made on March 12, 2020 to the Order of the Government of the Russian Federation of March 16, 2020 No. 635-r, allowing foreign seafarers to enter the country to make crew change of ships calling at  Russian ports, this measure will contribute  to overcoming the global crew change  crisis.  

- In anticipation of the second wave of coronavirus, which one is inevitable according to the statements of the World Health Organization,   such drastic measures are the only way to ensure an uninterrupted global supply chain in the near future, to avoid accidents and disasters at sea, to save  life and health of seafarers, the well-being of their families, - stressed the SUR Chairman.

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