More than 300 companies agree to work together to help the hundreds of thousands of sailors stranded due to COVID restrictions.
More than 300 major transportation, mining and trading companies say they plan to work together to help hundreds of thousands of merchant sailors stranded on ships for many months due to COVID-19 in a crisis that risk of creating more dangers at sea.
About 90% of global trade is transported by sea, and coronavirus restrictions in many jurisdictions affect supply chains.
In December, the United Nations General Assembly urged all countries to designate seafarers and other maritime personnel as key workers. Nevertheless, the crews of the ships still find it difficult to communicate with colleagues on land.
Maritime industry officials say many seafarers are at breaking point and many have been at sea for more than 11 months under a maritime labor convention.
The companies, which include shipping groups such as AP Moller Maersk, Anglo American and Rio Tinto miners, oil giants BP and Royal Dutch Shell as well as trading companies Cargill, Trafigura and Vitol, will strengthen information sharing as signatories of the “Declaration of Neptune” initiative.
‘Duty of care’
“We all have a duty of care to seafarers,” said Kit Kernon, Global Head of Shipping at Vitol. “Their well-being is essential to safe and efficient operations.”
Being stuck on a ship for longer than expected is more than an inconvenience for seafarers – it is a risk to their safety and mental well-being. Dealing with multi-million dollar cargoes can be stressful work and the crew often dread having their contracts extended.
Dumping a ship can create a nightmare of logistics, environmental risks and human suffering, and yet owners – people at the heart of an industry that touches almost everything in global supply chains – are rarely required to be accountable. Last year, cases of abandoned ships increased by almost 90%, even according to the most conservative accounting, according to the Bloomberg news agency.
Key worker status
The signatories of the initiative will also strengthen collaboration between maritime operators and charterers in order to accelerate crew changes while claiming the status of key worker for seafarers.
“We are witnessing a humanitarian crisis at sea,” said Jeremy Nixon, Managing Director of Maritime Group ONE. “They have become hostages of the situation and unable to disembark from their ships.”
Sven Boss-Walker, senior vice president of shipping at BP, said “the remote nature of their roles meant their contributions were often out of sight and out of mind.”
“It is essential that the industry comes together to provide a collaborative response,” added Ashley Howard of Rio Tinto.