The need for ships to change crews and for seafarers to fly home at the end of their periods of service have emerged as two of the biggest challenges facing the shipping industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has endorsed a series of protocols designed to address these issues.
Drawn up by a broad cross-section of global industry associations representing various sectors of the maritime transport industry, the protocols set out a range of general measures and procedures designed to ensure that ship crew changes can take place safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. At their heart is a call that, provided shipping companies broadly comply with and adhere to measures applicable to them, governments and their relevant national authorities should, for their part, do everything possible to allow crew changes to happen.
The wide-ranging protocols contain recommendations to maritime administrations and other relevant national authorities, such as health, customs, immigration, border control, seaport and civil aviation authorities. They address the roles of shipping companies, agents and representatives, including crew agencies and seafarers, and extend to seaports, airports and airlines involved in travel operations for ship crew changes. Details of the new protocols can be downloaded from the IMO website.