UN endorses need to designate seafarers as keyworkers

UN General Assembly Resolution calls for seafarer key worker designation and implementation of crew change protocols; IMO Secretary-General urges priority vaccination.

The 75th United Nations General Assembly has called on UN Member States to designate seafarers and other marine personnel as key workers and to implement relevant measures to allow stranded seafarers to be repatriated and others to join ships, and to ensure access to medical care.

In a resolution on International cooperation to address challenges faced by seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to support global supply chains, adopted on 1 December, the United Nations recognizes the need for an urgent and concrete response from all stakeholders, including the private sector, to resolve the situation of seafarers stranded at sea and/or unable to join ships because of national travel restrictions introduced across the globe as a result of the pandemic.

The resolution also encourages Governments and relevant stakeholders to implement IMO-recognized protocols to ensure safe ship crew changes and travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, thereby allowing stranded seafarers to be repatriated and others to join ships, taking into account essential preventive measures taken by port states against COVID-19.

Welcoming the adoption of the resolution, International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General Kitack Lim said, “Sadly, hundreds of thousands of seafarers, who are vital to maintaining supply chains, remain stranded at sea for months beyond their contracted time. 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.

“I am grateful to those countries who have already taken steps to designate seafarers as key workers and to all UN agencies and industry partners who have been working tirelessly to find ways to resolve the difficult situation. This is a human rights issue. 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.” 

Noting recent positive news regarding the development of vaccines against COVID-19, Sec-Gen Lim said the key worker designation should ensure seafarers and maritime workers receive priority vaccination, to allow them to work and maintain vital global supply chains.

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