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Crew change: ITF and JNG Joint Statement

14 May 2020
Recommended Framework of Protocols for ensuring safe ship Crew Changes and travel during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic

The Joint Negotiating Group (JNG) representing employers and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) representing seafarers unions and their members welcome the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Circular Letter (No.4204/Add.14) that was issued last week on the 5 May 2020 to all IMO Member States, United Nations and specialised agencies, Inter-governmental and Non-governmental organizations in consultative status with IMO.

The circular letter provides a framework of protocols to ensure crew changes can be done safely and as soon as possible, whilst appreciating the significant challenges facing the global maritime industry brought about by Covid-19. The letter also highlights the critical yet often unknown and overlooked plight of the seafarers and the important role they play in the world economy and to our society; to wit;

"Shipping is vital to the maintenance of global supply chains, but the current situation is unsustainable for the safety and wellbeing of ship crew and the safe operation of maritime trade. Each month about 150,000 seafarers need to be changed over to and from the ships which they operate to ensure compliance with international maritime regulations for ensuring safety, crew health and welfare, and the prevention of fatigue."

Previously, as responsible social partners, the JNG (comprising of International Maritime Employers Council, International Mariners Management Association of Japan, Korean Shipowners Association and Evergreen) and the ITF(representing 215 seafarers unions and their 1 million members) agreed twice to extend the seafarers' contracts in order to keep them safe from exposure to Covid-19 and also appreciating the enormity of the challenges this global pandemic poses in terms of travel restrictions and flights availability. Consequently, a significant number of seafarers have been required to stay on board beyond their employment contract period while others are waiting to be deployed so that they can join their ships and continue to earn a living.

In discussions last week, JNG and ITF agreed that the current situation in regards to lack of crew change can no longer continue since this could be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the seafarers, putting them at risk as well as the environment and the global supply chain. Seafarers' fatigue should not be underestimated and the social partners therefore agreed to not extend the contracts, but to support an implementation period of no longer than 30 days (up until 15 June 2020) so that governments have time to implement the framework of protocols as set out in the IMO Circular Letter.

Therefore, the parties have agreed:

  1. To support a transition period for governments and employers to implement the IMO issued framework of protocols, allowing up to 30 days starting from 15 May 2020 to ensure safe facilitation of crew changes takes place;
  2. That companies will consider, if financially viable and possible, to financially acknowledge every seafarer whose employment contract has expired, but who has continued to work;
  3. That companies will consider, if financially viable and possible, to provide seafarers waiting to be deployed an advance salary payment;
  4. That companies will, where possible, provide seafarers with extra bandwidth and internet access to be able to communicate with home; and
  5. That, when crew change commences, those seafarers who have been on-board the longest will be prioritised and repatriated first regardless of rank.

Finally the ITF and the JNG want to alert Flag States, P&I Clubs, Operators and Charterers that, in the event of the Framework of Protocols for Crew Change not taking effect by mid-June 2020, the consequence of stress related sickness affecting seafarers and their inability to consistently access medical support ashore may negatively impact on the commercial viability of the ship operations.                      

Jacqueline Smith, Maritime Coordinator, International Transport Workers' Federation

Francesco Gargiulo, JNG Joint Secretary & IMEC CEO                                                                                                            

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1 year 5 months ago

this is good move because seafarer onboard have no shore leave .
who finished their contract already they have mentally not good .it make more accedent it will be bad problem. please do it as early as

Robertito dela torre
1 year 5 months ago

Seafarers here want to go on board to earn a living.

1 year 5 months ago

How was it at US port ?
I mean my contact finish and 2 month past. Us coast guard want to direct flights for on signers and my country do not make any flights for a now at Houston we are sts lightering vessel our voyages increase as much now a days how long we stay on board ? That uncertainty thing we are dont know anything but how long we are stay on board And also How we gonna solve if us government do not allowed transit flights. What we can do for that ? We are great full for yours work thank you 🙏 hope middle of June we are go home. Best regards

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

1 year 4 months ago

I totally undsetanding your poisition. Even we try evey step to make crew change work , but the restriction on border, travel ban and unstable flight are hard to predict. I am really hoping IMO , ITF can work with globla govenments to issue speical permission for crew changes and gurantee their priorities of flight seats, not matter charter flight or shedule flights.

1 year 5 months ago

Great initiative.Hopefully will commence sign on, sign off around the globe.Its a time demand to give oxygen our beloved shipping Network.
Go ahead ITF & best of luck to all seafarers.

Capt acm
1 year 5 months ago

I have disembarked the other day 13 may with flite details on the 18. Sad to say my flites are cancelled and never know when they can book me. No food at the hotel and you have to buy your own food. If you dont have credit card, you will die from hunger rather than covid

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

1 year 4 months ago

I feel sorry and this is a big concerned! All you want is to going home, but the realities are resulting the unstable flights and city locktwon due to pandamic which makes life harder for foreign seaferers... This fraustrated that becasue even IMO and ITF have no such power to allocated airliesn and lockdown of different countries....

1 year 5 months ago

This is a very relieving move made by the organization. It enables us to go back and earn our living. But how will this address the medical certificates that were issued before the lockdown and the widespread of this pandemic that happened to be expired (May 2020) and are not used? Is there any extension for it or do they have to repeat again? This might take some time as medical centers will only accommodate fewer patients/persons a day due to ongoing pandemic. Anyhow thank you.

I saw myself in your cover photo, I don't remember if I send that photo or maybe a colleague of mine.

All the best!

teieru takaua karauna
1 year 5 months ago

no ,impact

Donald Seranilla
1 year 5 months ago

Please crew change make it possible , by June 15 , a another 1 month preparation for all manning and shipping company, it's good enough time. Especially for seafarers like me almost 10 months onboard oh my God i begging for crew change. We provide a complete PPE for crew going home for safety.

Chief Engineer
1 year 5 months ago

I am repatriated Last March 16 during lockdown in Phil. my contract supposed ends April 23, 2020. I explained to the Crewing Dept that I want to extend after my finish contract due to my COC will expire Oct 13, 2020. My request was not approved due to their company crew change plan. I am repatriated under contract at the time of lockdown.

1 year 5 months ago

I'm already pass 11 months onboard, next month will be one year, my contract is 3months overdue by then. Ship trade as of now is South africa after Chile. Im hoping that in Chile i can go home.

1 year 5 months ago

it's confirm the singoff star.because I already 12 month finished .please take action after June 15. otherwise the meaning company and owner take easy.
please do our singoff positively

Pawan choudhary
1 year 5 months ago

We are indian crew on board in saudi and our contract already finished, but still no news for our signoff so how we will go home safely, now we are very tired to work here we feel fatique so plz do something for offshore crew in saudi.

1 year 5 months ago

I lost my faith in everything what sailing and shipping industry is...or better say used to be, because in our time if the company or goverment can spare even 1 dollar they will throw you like a useless rag....our organizations.....people who stay in an office and just pass papers from left to right only for seafarers to say in their broken minds that everything will be ok.
12 steps of crew change....a big joke....if goverments will not start to make crew changes what will imo will do against them? Nothing ! How can shipping industry lose money if they ban for example China because they are not allowing crew changes...
Wake up people and think. Nothing will happen until 15 or if something will happen is not because they received a warning. In our times if you are a seafarer this means only one thing.... We are slaves!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Ab Joe
1 year 5 months ago

Sad and very true in the same time

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

1 year 4 months ago

You are right. No choice

UDAI midathada
1 year 5 months ago

Good decision by IMO, BUT 90% of companies cannot follow this I think, the companies don't want to spend extra money for the crew change, they are sending 2+/-1 extension contract for crew. And say" we are closely monitoring the situation". Now I am almost 5 months, vsl reaching USA Jun 25, no news about any crew change, but company sending msg that they are planning for vetting at USA. This is how companies mind set is- pockets should fill but nothing should spill.
IMO is making good decision but who can check whether it is followed or not.
After 16 yrs at sea now I actually understood what a bad decision I made to come to sea. Seafarers are the most important part of link for world to run smoothly but they are the once least cared for.

1 year 4 months ago

Absolutely same just ignoring all mails belong to crew change and request for compensation. Their business is go on and they don't must be PSC but I'm not expecting any protection for crew. They are all deal together owners, IMO, governments and will serve them without respect to us.

UDAI midathada
1 year 5 months ago

I forget to tell my contract is for 3 months and 2nd engineer on VLCC

1 year 4 months ago

Stop working on 15 June. Just want off, if we matter so much, they can get us home

1 year 4 months ago

My main concern is staff stuck on CMI - ocean diamond and have not been paid since 2nd April and are getting charged for water, toiletries and sanitary napkins and can not send money to family home, there is no mental health support. How can we get the company to clear bills at very least ?

Allan poe
1 year 4 months ago

I hope Porthedland , Australia or China will have Crew Change .

1 year 4 months ago

How many seafarers have to die that you start real acting? Or we all must be Afro-American from Minneapolis? We are already slaves! Do something!

1 year 4 months ago

I believe that, best action from our side is to rise a Strike ofter 15 june,
i refused to sign the extension contact, and i plan to stop working after 15 june, and to enjoy the sunsets and the food , recovery my health back until signing of,,, STRIKE GUYS.

Felix E.Mabansag Jr
1 year 4 months ago

Plss help..i like to go home im already 13 months on still nothing news..we have a distination going Japan..ship name HANSA HOMBURG..pls

1 year 4 months ago

Very happy to see such good news.
I signed on board in 6 Jun 2019, my initial contract is 6 months,
when I finished my initial contract in December 2019. The company said ' no reliefer for my rank ' , So I have to stay on board for one more round. Until the virus pandemic I can not go home. I have to sign the extent contract FOUR times, Now I feel very bad, because the company canceled our flight tickets again yesterday.
I think our company doesn't care human safety and the ITF protocol, I feel very bad and can not continue work on board, So I will try to send email to ITF inspectors when ship calling Antwerp in 24 Jun. I hope ITF can push our company to complete the crew change in Europe.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

1 week 2 days ago

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Captain Vitaly
1 year 4 months ago

Good day!
Looks like all ITF top managers lost their balls and now they are similar to pack of sterilized fat cats... It so pity to see that such powerful organization cannot protect seafarer’s interests and provide crew change in time. For example, almost all officers of our vessel have been working double contracts at present moment and we are not seeing any improvement with crew change at all in Asia-Pacific region (except "bla-bla-bla" from your and IMO sides) within last 3 months. So, if it will continue we will cease to pay Union fees at all because it would be strange to pay & support ITF for "nothing"...

1 year 4 months ago

I am serving as second officer at a vlcc. I am already on board 11 months and 8 days. I gave my repatriation on 17 of february and i am still waiting to sign off. I can understand tha covid 19 restrictions of the ports but in 7 days from now my vessel will pass next to Reunion island that is already opened long time ago. My company still has not decided yet if they will make crew changes. They say that the flights we can see in the internet do not actually exist. If i dont disembark here the next oportunity will be after 40 days minimum. Is there anything i can do to apply some pressure on my case?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Juan de la cruz
1 year ago

Our captain got mad when we requested for repatriation because he himself doesnt want to go home and it will mean he will be also going home. We had a 40 day sail time to asia,but when we are almost arriving,approximately a week before,he tells us that a 15 day notice is required to be able to go home on our next port of call. We are almost 14 months onboard,it is my 2nd extension of contract already because they said it was only formality for the authorities. Mine and 7 others expired for about 2 weeks now. We are about to sail to africa and still no news of us being repatriated. We are kept in the dark. The captain and chief engineer makes a fuss to every little mistake we do on our jobs. Please help. I wont sign another extension again.

1 year 3 months ago

Respected sir,

My ship sailing in Yemen to dijibouti, yemen is war zone so no possibility for crew change but dijibouti hav but covid issue dijibouti also stop vmcrew change last 18 March our contract on ship almost double finish.
But last week on 16 June dijibouti port says we open soon crew changes but still nothing in crew changes procedure.
On 5 july we are going in dijibouti port for provision please do something from your end so we can do sign off there my company already arranged chartered flight,, but dijibouti not giving permission so stuck.

Sherif El Soda
1 year 3 months ago

Dear sir

     Have a good day,,,,,

We are about 60 seafarers working at MARITIME & OIL SERVICES " MARIDIVE "

which has 5 ships working in tunisia 


We are trapped in tunisia for 6 month more or less

Can’t make our crew change due to covid -19 situation 

TUNISIAN government closed its borders to EGYPTIAN searfarers and our compnay made its best effort to make the crew change happen but TUNISIAN government refused it in any way (by sea or airplanes)

Please help and make contact with TUNISIAN government to respect IMO instructions about 

(Governments must act to bring seafarers home) which issue 29 June 

as its our right to go home to our families

Anish Pandey
1 year 3 months ago

It is company mein ham kaise ja sakte hain jaane ka kya tarika hai ismein jaane ka kya yogyata hai iska form kab bhara jata hai iska jaane ka process kya hai please bataiye

Abdul sattar
11 months 3 weeks ago

Is it works in Saudi Arabia?

şükrü özcan
10 months 1 week ago

Due Turkish Crew need visa for schengen country,having difficualty to obtain visa on time because of late knowledge of the voyage details,limited working hours on consulates because of Covid 19 and taking 7 to 15 days to issue visa.Even if the visas have been obtained many of them short term and limited entry.
Above reasons make crew exchanges in Europe impossible.
In order to solve above issue,mentioned European country accepts / agree crew exchange with OKTB(Okey to Board) which already done by UK and Schengen Country Malta
Hope world really want to solve crew exchange crisis,