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Industry and unions set out a 12-step solution for governments to free seafarers from COVID-19 lockdown

06 May 2020
Press Release
  • Comprehensive ‘roadmap’ developed by a supply chain coalition led by industry and unions in cooperation with UN agencies
  • 12-step plan issued by International Maritime Organization provides a route forward for governments on how to facilitate ship crew change during the pandemic
  • Failure to relieve crews risks the wellbeing of seafarers, maritime safety, and the critical supply chains the world relies on.

To assist governments to put in place coordinated procedures to facilitate the safe movement of seafarers, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) today issued a 12-step plan to 174 member states, providing them with a roadmap to free seafarers from their Covid-19 lockdown and allow appropriate exemptions for them to join or leave ships.

The 55-page roadmap has been advanced by a broad coalition of seafarers’ unions, and international shipping industry associations, with input from airline industry representatives, international organisations, and the insurance sector, to provide a comprehensive blueprint of how governments can facilitate crew changeovers and resolve safety concerns throughout the entire process.

In two weeks’, time, approximately 150,000 merchant seafarers will need to be changed over to ensure compliance with international maritime regulations, with tens of thousands currently trapped onboard ships across the globe due to the continuing imposition of travel restrictions. Failure to do so risks the wellbeing of seafarers, maritime safety, as well as the supply chains that the world relies on.  

Last Friday on International Workers’ Day, ships across the world sounded their horns as part of the #HeroesAtSeaShoutout initiative, aimed at reminding governments of the plight and sacrifice of the world’s 1.2 million seafarers who are keeping the world supplied during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) said:

“We have seen from the heroes at sea shoutout that seafarers are doing their bit to keep trade flowing. We stand ready to support our seafarers and we are working with political leaders so that they can steer a steady course and allow safe crew changes to take place.

“The problem is simplistic, but the solution is complex. So, we have stepped up and done the homework and developed the protocols. We are now working with governments to implement this roadmap.

“Seafarers continue to work really hard, day-in, day-out and far away from loved ones, but if we are not able to free our seafarers from their COVID-19 lockdown we could start to see disruption to trade and more importantly we increase the risk of accident and occurrences of mental health issues. Putting this off is no longer an option.”

The protocols clearly set out the responsibility of governments, shipowners, transport providers and seafarers. The protocols also provide a framework to develop robust procedures that can be adopted worldwide to ensure that trade can keep flowing and seafarers can be relieved.

Stephen Cotton, General Secretary, International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) said:

“Today seafarers’ unions, industry and the ILO and IMO are jointly calling on governments worldwide to put an end to hardships faced by the 150,000 seafarers currently stranded and pave a way for them to return home.

“This is about governments recognising the critical role that seafarers play in global supply chains, recognising them as key workers, and providing immediate and consistent exceptions from COVID-19 restrictions to allow crew changeovers.

“International seafarers are bearing the burden first-hand as governments turn a blind eye to the ‘forgotten sector’. The ITF, ICS and IMO have a clear message, governments cannot continue with a mentality of out of sight, out of mind, and we strongly urge governments to use this roadmap to act now before we suffer more serious consequences.”

This critical issue is increasingly taking on a humanitarian dimension for those crews which have already spent many months at sea, and which urgently need to be repatriated to their home countries and to be replaced. Apart from the need for shipping companies to comply with international regulations and contractual obligations, service periods on board ships cannot be extended indefinitely due to the dangerous impacts this has for the health and well-being of ship crew and, most importantly, safe ship operations.

The 12-step solution provides governments with the global framework to facilitate changeovers of ships’ crews, including the lack of available flights. In view of the importance of international maritime transport to the resilience of the global economy at this critical time, the recommendations have been produced in record time to enable governments to take the urgent action needed to address this issue.

ITF: Luke Menzies, +61 (0) 433 889 844 or
ICS: Duncan Bray, +44 (0) 208 638 8753 or

Notes to Editors:
The 12-step plan entitled “Recommended Framework of Protocols for Ensuring Safe Ship Crew Changes and Travel during the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic”, as circulated by IMO, can be found here.

The Protocols were jointly developed by the following global associations representing the maritime transportation sector: ICS, ITF, BIMCO, CLIA, FONASBA, IAPH, IFSMA, IMCA, IMEC, INTERCARGO, INTERFERRY, InterManager, INTERTANKO, IPTA, IG P&I Clubs and WSC, with input from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). ILO and WHO also provided vital input into the document, along with ICS national shipowner associations and ITF affiliated seafarers’ unions.

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4 months 1 week ago

Dated:26th April 2020
Kind Attention: Mr.Kitack Lim Sir,

Bcc:All Clubs/Ministry Officals All Ports Asia.

our#UnsungWARRIORSSeafarers working on board vessels,rigs -oil &Gas h are stuck in all major ports we all know and jointly try to evacuate them #IMOHQ along with #shipmin_india #ShipownersClub #ISAC_shipowners #UKPandI #maritimeCyprus #WHO #CLIAGlobal #canshipowners #EU_shipping #PnIGroup #IRS

We have one solutions where we need all shipownersclubs to come forward and stand togather unitll all Internationalflights resumes which might take another 30-60 days as #coronavirus still spreading in many countries .

We need a mail/ call from all shipowners and their representatives come forward .
So we can discuss the planning .

This #WarAgainstVirus is long way might take long fight so we shall come forward with planning how we can get our #WARRIORS back home and rejoiners join back .
#Shipowners #Shipyards #Seafarers are playing most valuable role to combact during #EPIDEMIC #coronavirus #COVID19.

We always stood for #Shipowners #shipyards and when these exists #Seafarers navigate the vessels so all plays vital role in 2/3rd Water .

We all know alone neither #VesselOwner #clubs can handle situations and get #AllCountries #citizens #Seafarers signoff/on untill collective work will be able to win the #WarToWinSignOffOn.

Our joint exercises will #SaveSeafarers #SaveHumanity #SaveEarth.

#staysafe #Stayhealthy #TakePrecaution

Thanks and Regards

दिगविजय पृताप सिहँ


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Reply from IMO media received that it has been forwarded to concerned team.

We had performed various attempts which benefited #Seafarers

Let's stand togather and give concrete planning .I had discussed with some airlines and Cruise owners but if we jointly work we might win this war #SignOff #SignOn.
Looking forward to to talk #ITF #ICS GS and decision maker alone no one can achieve and get #AllCountries #citizens Seafarers back to home.

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Rejoy Mathew
4 months 1 week ago

There is no end in sight.Stop ship for 1 hr globally,give them a warning as we did with sounding horn by giving them notice.As long as countries are getting whatever they want no body cares about seafarers.Let them take a note ,and start acting or go on strike then they will automatically come to terms.Otherwise there are plenty excuse to extend contract till vaccine is found.Since this is global when reliever country lifts lock ,the one who is to get relieved country will put lock.A good opportunity to unite seafarers.Best wishes.

4 months 1 week ago

Fully agree as only on the paper they promise us to do something.Why we are continue to do Vetting,PSC,Annuals,etc.All permitted except crew change.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

3 months 3 weeks ago

Because they like money that owners pay...they don't care for our life's.

Robert Villanueva
4 months 1 week ago

In your post saying seafarers are hero and frontliner.. How come that we are going to different countries with a positive cases of covid 19 virus.. Exposing our self. The more help you do to us is.. Paying additional payments for high risk we are also in high risk situation right?? Especially to Seafarers already finish contract but the company saying no crew change... Please share this to your officials or head of the organization.. That way your can help us..

Capt. Ausan
4 months 1 week ago

Like other fronliners we are also key worker and should be treated fair. There should be fast approval for crew chamge and certification medical and training. We need to be recognized and to be excempted in ECQ to sustain world needs.

4 months 1 week ago

Jokers. They should first reduce the maximum seatime from 11 months.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

3 months 3 weeks ago

These organisations are not for seafarers, it just for employers profit. No protection for us just demand more and more because their business is success!

4 months 1 week ago

All of ITF,ICS,ILO e.t.c plan's is just waste of the time and paper.We dont believe before and continue dont believe now in all your organisations that you can do something for seamens.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

3 months 3 weeks ago

It's real. Shame to all them!!

Milazare louis
4 months 1 week ago

Dear sir we are from Mauritius island my point is we have seafarers welfare fund and professionals seafarers unions nothing have been done to help us to support our families here.they have the fund but in the blue marine economy in the minister of shipping no seafarers get any help already two month at home after 20 days quarantine and now extend confinement till 4 of june 2020 we are jobless we don't know when.the cruising industries will start again .my email number is teddy can you please help us

Thomas Sebastian
4 months ago

Employers shall extend necessary facilities for crew change.For example if a ship passes through the international ship route and onboard there is crew who is long overdue for signoff,that ship shall be diverted where the respective country has made proper guidelines for crew change.
Vessel PSU Seventh SGP VLOC is heading towards China.There are 14 crew onboard who have completed 14 months.The Govt of India had put in place guidelines for crew change.But the company is not keen to appoint an Agent at Kochi to do the formalities for crew change.
Employers shall feel the responsibility

Ko ko
1 week 2 days ago

On a ship like this, not only do you usually have a lot of Contracts.
When Pendamic declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization
Over-contracted robot sailors are worried about their homes during the global epidemic.
They really need to come back and lead the family. The company did not ask the robotic crew to return, no matter how much the contract exceeded. They said they were still looking for a country to return to.
In fact, if possible, I would not even want to stay on the ship for a minute, but I would be patient and full of endurance, full of endurance. Due to prolonged sleep deprivation, the robotic crew lost some of their fluid, and some of the original grain structure in the robot's body was damaged and the stress increased.
The reason want to go back .
That is why the engine robot uses only a ladder that can be accessed directly from the engine room to your room.
The last one is risk. It is a risk to life. No sailor is afraid of the waves, but risking his life in the waves is only good for a limited time. Even under normal circumstances, he should return at the end of the year. The risk is too high. Last time, they were still searching through the Taiwan strait. Did another ship get in trouble?
At the time of writing, the port is closed due to bad weather, so I have to keep moving around. I can't stop.
The robots on the ship are sounding the alarms, the condenser windows are stopped, and the robot microprocessors are coaxing each other.
But because therobots are , they have to work hard and do nothing to return.
Engineer robots also reduce the amount of work done by robots in the engine room.
The company is lack of responsible to return on robots, no matter how many documents on the MLC Convention and panama state.
are many victories over robot sailors
Patience and perseverance.
There are robot sailors. There are lonely robot sailors. Even though they get paid, they are out of bound. Trying to survive.