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Crew Change Crisis: ITF and JNG Joint Statement

22 Jun 2020

The ITF and the Joint Negotiating Group, along with the International Chamber of Shipping have worked tirelessly since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic on finding solutions to the issue of crew changes.

The ITF’s “Enough is enough” campaign is aimed at pushing the various government and authorities to relax crew change restrictions, far from being aimed at JNG and their Members.

ITF and JNG recognise that, when seafarers have finished their extended contracts, they are fatigued physically and/or mentally and feel that they are not fit to continue to safely perform their duties at the level required of a professional. The responsible action at this point is not to extend their contract and request repatriation.

This is not an incitement to go on strike! Their contract has finished and, once a ship is safely in harbour, they have the right not to extend. Of course, there will be circumstances where a seafarer is denied disembarkation, due to lack of flights and/or their replacement, but they cannot be compelled to work either.

The social partners have actively engaged with and received public support from the United Nations Secretary General and other UN agencies, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). We have supported our affiliated unions and our membership in discussions with their national governments and assisted with getting seafarers emergency medical treatment. We have worked together to find solutions to this humanitarian crisis via our affiliated national unions, local members and their agents.

In addition, we negotiated and agreed twice to an extension of the Seafarers’ Employment Agreements covered under IBF CBAs and an additional 30 days implementation phase to allow governments time to put in place practical solutions for the facilitation of crew changes.

Along with European sister organisation, the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF), and the European Community Shipowners Association (ECSA), we have lobbied the European Commission to ease visa requirements within Schengen and our affiliates and members have done the same with their governments.

We arranged a meeting with major flag state authorities, the ILO and IMO to discuss crew change challenges and held meetings with ICAO and IATA to find solutions to the issue of flights.

We contacted other non-maritime non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and asked for support to help raise awareness around the crew changes issue and use their contacts and influence to lobby governments.

We have jointly pursued every diplomatic avenue available, but still crew changes remain a major issue. Daily we receive desperate messages from anxious and fatigued crew who are convinced governments, including their own, have forgotten them. However, not once has the ITF publicly called out or put the blame on companies and employers. Still crew changes remain a major issue.

The Guidance on Your Rights to Crew Change issued by the ITF does not blame JNG. The guidance is made up of extracts from the ILO MLC 2006, as amended. In the early stages of the pandemic, the ILO issued a circular that spoke of force majeure, which at the time when the Covid-19 spread was raging was a necessary decision. Recently the ILO confirmed that force majeure can no longer be used as a blanket excuse for seafarers’ contract extensions, but these must be considered on case-by-case basis.

Our main concern is that failing to relieve fatigued, stressed and desperate crew, is only inviting accidents or major incidents which will damage the shipping industry and the reputation of those same seafarers who, throughout the pandemic, have professionally and responsibly carried on and continued working in order to keep the world’s global supply chain moving. We understand that the world’s communities are dependent on the goods transported by sea, but our seafarers onboard cannot bear the burden of this responsibility indefinitely. They have done their duty and now they deserve our support.

We will continue to support companies and use our networks and contacts with both the UN and other agencies and nationally to assist them. We appreciate that this is a difficult time for everyone and we want to work together on finding solutions.

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2 years ago

Same,same and same.... empty words. Managment continues to tell that there is no possibility to arrange crew change... The flag of vessel is Singapore but I didn't see any action from flag state or SMOU. Where is real support? Why have seafarers lose work by making complaints? Start check owners and management from your side at least! Make strikes or penalties for violation!

2 years ago

Bla bla bla bla and little bit more of bla bla. You are the only one who actually believe in these empty words. Thank you for your help, hopefully chairs are comfortable enough

2 years ago

Seaman lives matter, yes. looks like no.

2 years ago

I know the exit need to issue task risk assessment and walk free

Sitting Bull
2 years ago

Any update from ITF regarding response from governments to get seafarers under “key worker” status?

2 years ago

What crew can do to repatriation if dont signing contracts? Several crew members working more than 1 year, and signing aditional contracts wich already been expired. Management and owner dont doing anything. 1 crew member more than 60 years old, and his repatriation must be done immediately due to badly conditions of health.

2 years ago

Mby ned to ground few loaded tankers and fired them, for better understanding.

2 years ago

There is no point in persuading the seafarers to strike. Not everyone will be ready to risk their job. My company keeps convincing the crew that in next port they will be repatriated. But its just like that next port never comes.

2 years ago

Đúng là thật sự mệt mỏi khi đã quá hợp đồng mà vẫn chưa được về ! Mình đã quá hợp đồng hơn 2 tháng ở cty Simatech! Khu vực đubai. Mong được về mà công ty vẫn chưa thấy báo người sang thay ! Mình cũng đã xin nghỉ làm được 2 ngày ! 2E Coral star

N.T.Binh 2E Coral star
2 years ago

My contract overdue 2 months! Giving sign off letter on first week of June ! Waiting for signing off ! Also request for stop working then work free already 2 days ! So tired !!!

Crew stranded near portsmouth UK
2 years ago

hi there there is a group of 25 Nicaraguans and 10 Chinese crew stuck on a expedition ship since April 1 with no pay, terrible food , limited water and suppliers. One staff did try to attempt suicide with overdose. They keep getting told country wont open border but seems like they don't want to pay for expensive flights. I emailed CEO, petition, amnesty international what else can we do? Meanwhile the letter updates saying they are building new ships but what about paying staff and getting them home ? Now talking about going to Las Palamas spain again but they just want to go home. Any suggestions ?

2 years ago

Now that we have seen no government is ready to listen to IMO,ITF & other UN bodies, so these bodies have to think in different ways.One way is to liase with safety inspectors detain all or any vessel through PSC inspection in various ports of the world i.e. if any crew found to have exceeded their original contract by 3 months, the ship should be detained; as having crew mentally not ready to continue sailing is very unsafe. I think this has already started by some PSC authorities, but it should spread all over the ports in the world.

Second way , in dry bulk sector, to get the commercial operator involved,e.g if the operator is say ,Cargill & the crew from India then ask them to find cargo & fix vessel for the Indian ports, similarly if crew is Filipino then fix vessel and take the ship to Philipines where crew will have the option to get relieved in their own country.This way more and more crew can be relieved in their home countries (flight requirement is not needed).This will be an win win situation for all.

Third way, is to divert the ships to nearest port where flight option is available, so that crew change can take place.

Deck Officer
2 years ago

So, actually in the end same news....nothing can be done.
You keep talking about the fact that in countries which governments don.t allow crew change there will be consequences.... please tell us dear itf, imo ics and other organizations in the maritime sector.. What consequences can take place against a country as...lets just say China?
This pandemic was perfect to show the world and especially to the worlds seafarers that what we do and the organizations who are ment to protect us have NO POWER, except the power to play with money. Actually in the end this is the main purpose of sailing: Make money and step on the blood of sailors who committed suicide and on the tears of the families.
All of you talk about the status of key workers.
Why did you wait for the pandemic to start convincing the goverments that we are key workers?
This means before the pandemic we were not key workers?
So seafarers matter only when something bad happens.
Sorry to say this dear sirs but instead of helping the seafarers your organisations only makes more problems in our lives.
The only thing that I wish now, after 5 years in maritime academy, 2 years in masters degree and 12 years out to sea, is to finally go home, and once I arrive home to BURN MY OFFICER ENDORSMENT

2 years ago

This statement relieves shipowners. Thank you, ITF, for that. Now, the last party we thought we can rely on is spoiled. Owners free to dance in our nerve.
No real actions made and now, not expected for good.
Goodbye home...