This webpost only contains key updates; for detailed information, Members should refer to the regularly emailed circulars.
16 Feb 2023:
- Statement on the fourteenth meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic
The WHO fourteenth meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) Emergency Committee regarding the coronavirus 2019 disease (COVID-19) pandemic was held on Friday 27 January 2023. (link)
The Committee acknowledged that, while the Omicron sub-lineages currently circulating globally are highly transmissible, there has been a decoupling between infection and severe disease when compared to earlier variants of concern.
The Committee emphasized the importance of maintaining capacities developed during the COVID-19 response and continuing to strengthen health system resilience.
The Committee acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic may be approaching an inflexion point. Achieving higher levels of population immunity globally, either through infection and/or vaccination, may limit the impact of SARS-CoV-2 on morbidity and mortality, but there is little doubt that this virus will remain a permanently established pathogen in humans and animals for the foreseeable future. As such, long-term public health action is critically needed. While eliminating this virus from human and animal reservoirs is highly unlikely, mitigation of its devastating impact on morbidity and mortality is achievable and should continue to be a prioritized goal.
The set of Temporary Recommendations is also issued by the WHO Director-General.
- Learning the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic
IMO published an summary on lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic on 10 February 2023. (link) It highlights that IMO Secretary-General signed the recommendations document on 27 January 2022, along with the Heads of the other involved UN entities. The recommendations reflect IMO’s calls made during the COVID-19 pandemic to designate seafarers as key workers and joint calls to collaborate on seafarer issues.
The full set of recommendations is available at link here.
16 Nov 2022:
- Designation of Seafarers as Key Workers
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.35/Rev.12 on 15 Nov 2022, informing that IMO has received 68 notifications from IMO Member States and Associate Members that they have designated seafarers as key workers, as attached.
The Circular Letter strongly encourages IMO Member States that have not yet done so to take action to address this issue and designate seafarers as key workers as a matter of urgency.
11 Nov 2022:
Seafarers and bulk shipping suffering from ‘Long COVID’
The term ‘Long COVID’ is not just referred to the lasting post COVID-19 syndrome, but it does mean crew shortage, and full or partially lock-down in Asia to restrict crew change and permission of crew shore leave, which hit the bulk shipping and their seafarers particularly with the ‘Long COVID’ impact as more 40% of world fleet are bulkers. The suffering of seafarers and bulk shipping from ‘Long COVID’ would impact the transportation of bulk cargoes as the UNCTAD believed that the major health risks of COVID-19 seem to be receding and a major cost-of-living crisis hits the global economy.
Bulk carriers provide employment to more than 350,000 seafarers annually, often providing a significant income to households in areas with high rates of unemployment. Seafarers are the true heart of global shipping, and as demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are key workers, playing a vital role in ensuring the flow of essential goods.
The shipping industry continues to face its own version of ‘long COVID’. Seafarers worldwide continue to face major issues with crew change, port entry and changing vaccination requirements. New waves of infection continue to affect ports, and once again we are seeing local authorities creating their own interpretation of the rules. This is happening today at ports around the world, and governments and administrations seem not to have learned the lessons of the past two years, as they move to a post-COVID agenda.
The situation is ongoing and requires pan industry commitment. The efforts of INTERCARGO and its Members to highlight the plight of the seafarer must not stop, and the industry must never consider what is happening to seafarers today in any way normal.
The Association urges consideration by national governments at the highest level for the issue to remain at the top of their agenda.
06 Apr 2022:
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Seafarer Shore Leave Principles, Second Edition
Shipowners recognise the importance of shore leave to seafarers. Shore leave can help to mitigate fatigue and reduce stress from long voyages and a long time away from home. Providing access to shore leave can, however, be challenging.
This document (download link) sets out principles for providing shore leave during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and contains information on the international maritime obligations surrounding the provision of shore leave by state authorities and shipowners, and for seafarers.
23 Mar 2022:
- Vaccination Roadmap framework
Version 2 of the industry Vaccination Roadmap framework was published today to help establish vaccination hubs dedicated to seafarers across the world, as attached. It includes has information on vaccine eligibility, implementation, distribution, administration and legal issues. Version 1 of the Vaccination Roadmap was issued on 13 May 2021.
01 Mar 2022:
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidance for Ship Operators for the Protection of the Health of Seafarers, Fifth Edition
The Guidance for Ship Operators for the Protection of the Health of Seafarers (link to download), contains up-to-date and relevant information regarding all aspects of COVID-19 that effect seafarers and shipping companies.
This comprehensive guidance has been a joint effort of shipping associations and experts from leading international bodies to help shipping companies and seafarers follow health advice provided by United Nations agencies and other national organisations in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
This significant public health challenge requires close co-operation between flag and port States, labour supply countries, shipping companies, industry associations and other maritime service providers, to protect the health of seafarers (and passengers where applicable) as well as the general public.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccination for Seafarers and Shipping Companies: A Practical Guide, Third Edition
This Practical Guide (link to download) outlines the most up-to-date and relevant information regarding vaccinations for seafarers and includes answers to important questions on availability and efficacy of vaccinations for ships’ crew and shipping companies.
The third edition contains:
- Updated information on the current status of global vaccinations and vaccination guidance relevant to seafarers; and
- An expanded ‘Key Questions’ section, including new information on multiple doses and types of vaccinations.
IMO issues a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.4/Rev.4 on 28 Feb 2022 as attached, inviting IMO Member States and international organizations to make use of the updated Guidance for ship operators for the protection of the health of seafarers, prepared by a group of industry associations. The Guidance was originally issued as Circular Letter No.4204/Add.4.
- Joint IMO/ILO/UNCTAD/WHO statement to address the crew change crisis
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.44 on 28 Feb 2022 as attached, highlighting the pandemic’s impact on shipping and global sustainable trade and development, and once again urge all stakeholders to ensure the continued safe operation of shipping, and to keep ships moving, ports open and cross-border trade flowing.
The Joint Statement in particular calls on Governments, national and local authorities and all relevant stakeholders, including employers, to take nine critical actions, which include, among others, providing seafarers with access to medical care, designate them as key workers and prioritize their vaccination; stressing the importance of concerted collaborative efforts to keep seafarers safe and limit disruption to supply chains.
06 Dec 2021:
A WHO webpage posted “WHO advice for international traffic in relation to the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant (B.1.1.529)”, dated 30 November 2021.
For details, refer to https://www.who.int/news-room/articles-detail/who-advice-for-international-traffic-in-relation-to-the-sars-cov-2-omicron-variant
01 Dec 2021:
WHO advice for international traffic in relation to the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant:
- WHO webpage: https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/enhancing-readiness-for-omicron-(b.1.1.529)-technical-brief-and-priority-actions-for-member-states, and
- press release from the AFRO regional Office on the travel bans: https://www.afro.who.int/news/who-stands-african-nations-and-calls-borders-remain-open
- statement by the UN Secretary General just issued yesterday on the same issue: https://www.un.org/sg/en/node/260892
Currently 56 countries implement a range of measures, from suspension of flights, denial of entry or testing and quarantine, targeting citizens or travelers originating from countries in the Southern African Region or countries where the new variant has been detected, while also providing exceptions either for essential travel or for national residents .
03 Nov 2021:
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.43 on 1 November 2021, informing an accessible webpage of a global list of ports offering vaccinations for seafarers, including foreign seafarers, at https://icma.as/vaccines/.
01 Nov 2021:
IMO issued a MSC.1/Circ.1643 on Guidance on seafarers’ training and certification for issuing Administrations, flag States and port States during the COVID-19 pandemic on 25 October 2021, to assist Administrations responsible for the issuance of seafarers’ certificates, flag States and port States in the implementation of the training and certification provisions of the 1978 STCW Convention during the exceptional circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
21 Sept 2021:
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.42 on 17 September 2021, urging Governments:
- to recognize the strategic importance of the maritime sector and, in line with UN General Assembly resolution A/75/17 adopted on 1 December 2020, to designate seafarers as key workers2 and to treat them as such by providing access to medical care.
- to prioritize seafarers in their national COVID-19 vaccination programmes, in accordance with the WHO SAGE Roadmap for Prioritizing uses of COVID-19 Vaccines in the Context of Limited Supplies, as updated on 16 July 2021, and to offer WHO-approved Emergency Use Listing (EUL) vaccines to ensure their vaccination status is recognized internationally.
- to step forward to accelerate, in particular, the vaccination of seafarers serving international shipping.
It encourages Governments to recognize the role other marine personnel play in facilitating global trade and, wherever possible, to also vaccinate them on a priority basis.
15 Sept 2021:
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Seafarer Shore Leave Principles
A group of industry Associations including INTERCARGO jointly developed and published guidance on “Coronavirus (COVID-19): Seafarer Shore Leave Principles” (link to download). This document sets out principles for providing shore leave during the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Vaccination for Seafarers and Shipping Companies: A Practical Guide
This Practical Guide (link to download) outlines the most up-to-date and relevant information regarding vaccinations for seafarers and includes answers to important questions on availability and efficacy of vaccinations for ships’ crew and shipping companies.
31 Aug 2021:
- WHO – Digital Documentation of COVID-19 Certificates
WHO issued Vaccination Status Technical specifications and implementation guidance related to Digital Documentation of COVID-19 Certificates.
The “Digital Documentation of COVID-19 Certificates: Vaccination Status (DDCC:VS) Technical Specifications and Implementation Guidance” document is a baseline requirements document for technology partners that are creating or overseeing the development of a digital vaccination certificate solution for COVID-19. It is written so that Member States:
✓ Do not oversimplify the development of digital vaccination certificate solutions, at the risk of
compromising ethical and data protecting design choices;
✓ Can adopt and adhere to digital health interoperability standards;
✓ Have the flexibility to determine which digital solutions work best for their context and local technology partners.
- IMO – Seafarer Crisis Action Team
The IMO’s effort on supporting seafarers on the frontline of COVID-19 is summarised at https://www.imo.org/en/MediaCentre/HotTopics/Pages/Support-for-seafarers-during-COVID-19.aspx.
IMO’s Seafarer Crisis Action Team (SCAT) is working to help resolve individual cases, alongside other organizations like the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). IMO’s SCAT team works around the clock – contacting representatives from national governments, NGOs, trade unions or relevant associations, or orienting seafarers towards the right organisation, to find solutions. To date SCAT has dealt with over 500 cases involving thousands of individual seafarers.
19 Aug 2021:
Useful sources of information and updates on COVID-19 vaccination:
- COVID-19 Vaccines for Seafarers in the US and Canada (link)
- List of global ports currently administering vaccinations to Seafarers including many Indian locations (link)
- Comments and best practices, especially to encourage new vaccine initiatives in ports (link)
- WHO Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Weekly Epidemiological Update and Weekly Operational Update (link)
- WHO COVID-19 vaccine tracker and landscape (link)
- Effects of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Civil Aviation (link)
- Global vaccination against COVID-19 in 217 locations (link)
- Data on COVID-19 vaccinations by Our World in Data (link)
- Webpage with the list of WHO-approved vaccines (under “Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?”) (link)
29 Jul 2021:
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.4/Rev.3 on 16 July 2021, circulating an updated version of the industry Guidance for ship operators for the protection of the health of seafarers, as attached.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) published the SAGE Roadmap For Prioritizing Uses Of COVID-19 Vaccines In The Context Of Limited Supply on 16 Jul, an approach to inform planning and subsequent recommendations based upon epidemiologic setting and vaccine supply scenarios (link).
The SAGE guidance aims to provide guidance for overall programme priorities as well as vaccine-specific recommendations and consists of three steps: Step 1: A values framework; Step 2: Roadmap for prioritizing uses of COVID-19 vaccines; Step 3: Vaccine-specific recommendations. The vaccine prioritization roadmap considers priority populations for vaccination based on epidemiologic setting and vaccine supply scenarios and can be used by countries to shape their national response to the pandemic.
IMO welcomed the World Health Organization’s decision to name seafarers as one of the groups of transportation workers that should be prioritised for COVID-19 vaccination in instances of limited supplies. The updated guidance for Stage II of its vaccine roadmap from the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) states: “Seafarers and air crews who work on vessels that carry goods and no passengers, with special attention to seafarers who are stranded at sea and prevented from crossing international borders for crew change due to travel restrictions.” (link)
- Legal, Liability and Insurance Issues arising from Vaccination of Seafarers
A webpage titled “IG P&I FAQ: Vaccination of Seafarers” was created by the thirteen P&I Clubs which are members of the International Group of P&I Clubs in order to answer a number of questions that are frequently asked about P&I Club cover relating to the vaccination of seafarers. (link)
The webpage of P&I Clubs also refers to an industry publication “Coronavirus (COVID- 19): Legal, Liability and Insurance Issues arising from Vaccination of Seafarers”. The Guidance addresses legal, liability and insurance issues that could potentially arise for shipowners from or in connection with vaccinations of crew for coronavirus (COVID-19). It provides answers and explanation on questions such as:
1) Can a shipowner require or mandate seafarers to get a Covid-19 vaccine?
2) Can a shipowner amend or vary existing contracts of employment to require the seafarer to get a vaccine as a condition of employment?
3) Can a COVID-19 vaccination be made mandatory for seafarers as a contractual condition in a new contract of employment?
4) Should vaccination take place on board?
5) Is the shipowner liable for the costs of vaccinating seafarers?
6) Is the shipowner liable for the consequences of vaccinating seafarers, including any side effects?
7) What would be the shipowner’s liabilities if the vaccine were imposed by the seafarers’ home country?
8) What would the shipowner’s liabilities be in the event that a seafarer refused vaccination and other crew members contracted COVID-19 as a result of contact with the unvaccinated seafarer?
9) What are the insurance cover provisions for other liabilities in a case where many of the crew we are ill as a result of vaccination? Would there be cover for delay/damage to cargo as well?
09 Jul 2021:
The 103rd session of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 103) was held remotely from 5 to 14 May 2021. Following consideration, MSC 103 adopted resolution MSC.490(103) on Recommended action to prioritize COVID-19 vaccination of seafarers, as attached.
Resolution MSC.490(103) recommends that IMO Member States and relevant national authorities:
.1 prioritize their seafarers, as far as practicable, in their national COVID-19 vaccination programmes, noting the advice of the WHO SAGE Roadmap for prioritizing the use of COVID-19 vaccines in the context of limited supply published in November 2020. Proper consideration of extending COVID-19 vaccines to seafarers of other nationalities is also recommended, taking into account their national vaccines supply;
.2 consider exempting seafarers from any national policy requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition for entry, taking into account that seafarers should be designated as ʺkey workersʺ, as they travel across borders frequently.
.3 develop appropriate plans, where feasible, to provide necessary infrastructure and facilities to support COVID-19 vaccination of seafarers.
Discussion on COVID-19 related matters was carried out during MSC 103 which noted the following views:
.1 national vaccination policies around the world were uneven, complex and numerous, and differing groups had been prioritized in different States;
.2 IMO needed to play an important role in the exchange of information and in the development of a global strategy for the vaccination of seafarers;
.3 proof of vaccinations should not be required of seafarers as they travelled across boundaries;
.4 the draft resolution on seafarersʹ vaccination should:
.1) present a practical and realistic scheme of measures to prioritize seafarersʹ vaccination, taking into account the limitations on ports in administering vaccines and the consequences of any adopted measures for seafarersʹ health on board ships;
.2) embody the current status of COVID-19 vaccination globally, acknowledging the reality of access to vaccines; and highlight the importance of the role that the Secretary-General played in the prioritization of seafarersʹ vaccination; and
.3) be kept under review following its adoption owing to the evolving nature of access to vaccines and national vaccination programmes;
.6 vaccination of seafarers, regardless of their nationality, under national vaccination programmes would be advisable, but this was beyond the ability of many States;
.7 although a global vaccination strategy and a unified procedure for the maritime sector under the coordination of IMO would be desirable, this fell under the responsibility of WHO with the assistance of UNICEF, and was already being coordinated as part of the WHO SAGE Roadmap, with the support of relevant stakeholders and maritime administrations; and
.8 exchange of information on the various vaccination strategies implemented by States and coordinated by IMO would be of paramount importance to avoid creating new obstacles to crew change and for the global allocation of vaccines; however, the dynamic nature of this information might hinder its continuous reliability and accuracy.
25 Jun 2021:
Webpage with the list of WHO-approved vaccines: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/coronavirus-disease-(covid-19)-vaccines (under “Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?”).
Webpage listing country by country what vaccines they have accepted: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations#source-information-country-by-country. Vaccination against COVID-19 has now started in 212 locations.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidance for Ship Operators for the Protection of the Health of Seafarers, Fourth Edition, Jun 2021
This Guidance (link to download) has been produced by International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) to help shipping companies and seafarers follow health advice provided by United Nations agencies and others in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease, which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), under the WHO International Health Regulations (IHR).
27 May 2021:
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.41 on 24 May 2021, circulating a “Roadmap for Vaccination of International Seafarers” prepared by the industry, as attached.
20 May 2021:
- Designation of Seafarers as Key Workers
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.35/Rev.7 on 20 May 2021, informing that IMO has received 60 notifications from IMO Member States and Associate Members that they have designated seafarers as key workers, as attached.
The Circular Letter strongly encourages IMO Member States that have not yet done so to take action to address this issue and designate seafarers as key workers as a matter of urgency.
18 May 2021:
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.40 on 17 May 2021, informing that the UN Global Compact, in cooperation with ILO, IMO and UN Human Rights, have launched a tool to support maritime human rights due diligence, as attached. The tool is a response to the ongoing crisis concerning crew changes and is not intended to provide comprehensive guidance on human rights due diligence for the maritime sector.
12 May 2021:
- IMO – Vaccination of seafarers
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.39 on 10 May 2021 as attached. It calls on all IMO Member States to work together towards a fair global distribution, beyond fulfilling their national needs. No seafarers should be left behind or forced to forgo their careers because of limited resources in their home country. The health of the world’s seafarers and the safety of their workplaces has to remain one of our main priorities and can only be guaranteed if industry and Member States continue to provide all necessary measures such as testing, appropriate PPE, access to medical care and sanitation facilities to prevent the spread of the virus.
05 May 2021:
INTERCARGO Statement of Support – New Seafarers International Relief Fund – please see here
- Two resolutions were adopted during the Special Tripartite Committee (STC) at the International Labour Organisation, which brought together more than 100 governments, seafarers and shipowners, who met virtually from 19 to 23 April 2021 to review the impact of COVID-19 on the maritime sector.
1) ILO Resolution concerning COVID-19 vaccination for seafarers
The Resolution concerning COVID-19 vaccination for seafarers (link to download) calls on governments, in accordance with their national vaccination programmes, to make supplies of World Health Organization Emergency Use List (WHO-EUL) vaccines available for seafarers on ships visiting ports in their territories, and for governments to consider establishing vaccination hubs for seafarers in ports.
It encourages States to accept vaccines given to seafarers by other States and, in consultation with shipowners’ and seafarers’ organizations and in coordination with the WHO and IMO, to consider establishing an international programme for seafarers that will facilitate access to vaccinations ashore.
2) ILO Resolution concerning the implementation and practical application of the MLC, 2006 during the COVID-19 pandemic
The Resolution concerning the implementation and practical application of the MLC, 2006 during the COVID-19 pandemic (link to download) renews calls for States to designate and treat seafarers as key workers and take all necessary steps to ensure that they can travel to and from their country or place of residence and their place of work, and obtain medical care ashore as well as shore leave.
States are called upon to take all necessary steps to ensure that seafarers are not required to stay on board a vessel longer than the period specified in their seafarer’s employment agreement, without their consent, and under no circumstances for longer than the maximum period of service stipulated by the MLC, 2006.
27 Apr 2021:
- IMO revised its circular on Industry Recommended framework of protocols for crew changes and travel
IMO issued a circular MSC.1/Circ.1636/Rev.1 on 26 Apr as attached, a revised version of the Recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, taking account of issues relevant to the global rollout of vaccines and the critical part they will play in facilitating ships’ crew changes and the efficient movement of world trade.
IMO invites its Member States to consider the protocols, set out in the annex of MSC.1/Circ.1636/Rev.1, and advise owners, operators and managers of ships entitled to fly their flag, as appropriate, as well as shipboard personnel employed or engaged on such ships to act accordingly, taking also into account the Recommended action to facilitate ship crew change, access to medical care and seafarer travel during the COVID-19 pandemic (resolution MSC.473(ES.2)).
23 Apr 2021:
Seafarers & COVID-19: INTERCARGO Statement of concern – please see here
09 Apr 2021:
- IMO –Online Module on Crew Change and Repatriation of Seafarers
IMO has set up an online Module of “Crew Change and Repatriation of Seafarers” at https://gisis.imo.org/Public/Default.aspx, for the dissemination of information provided by IMO Member States regarding ports that facilitate crew changes, including information on the designation of National Focal Points on crew change and repatriation of seafarers.
The module of “Crew Change and Repatriation of Seafarers” is part of the IMO Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS), an online database.
Members have been updated with frequently revising series of circular MSC.7/Circ.1 on National Focal Points on crew change (the latest MSC.7/Circ.1/Rev.25, dated 26 Mar 2021 as attached for reference). With the Module of “Crew Change and Repatriation of Seafarers” now available on GISIS, the current MSC.7/Circ.1 series will be discontinued. Information on National Focal Points on crew change and repatriation of seafarers that has already been provided by Member States and circulated by means of the MSC.7/Circ.1 series has been transferred to the new module.
30 Mar 2021:
- National Focal Points on Crew Change
IMO issued an updated list of National Focal Points on Crew Change via its circular letter MSC.7/Circ.1/Rev.25, available on its website on 29 Mar, 2021.
The list includes contact details on crew change of Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, the Cook Islands, Cyprus, Dominica, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, Montenegro, Myanmar, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and Vanuatu, as attached.
29 Mar 2021:
- Vaccinating Seafarers
The shipping industry is once again collaborating to ensure that seafarers are protected against the COVID-19 disease. A Vaccinations Task Force is developing best practice guidance in order to:
- Ensure a pragmatic approach is taken by Governments to seafarer inoculations;
- Develop guidelines setting out all the steps necessary to implement a vaccination programme for seafarers; and
- Address the legal liabilities for shipowners arising from vaccinations.
The principles adopted recognise that:
- Seafarers have been recognised by UN bodies as ‘key workers’ and, as such, countries should vaccinate seafarers at the earliest possible opportunity;
- Seafarers should be encouraged to be vaccinated when offered the opportunity;
- Only vaccines on the WHO’s Emergency Use List (EUL) should be used; and
- Vaccinated seafarers should be provided with internationally accepted documentation containing standard information that can be used to verify the vaccination.
The shipping industry has worked with the relevant UN bodies and made representations to the COVAX scheme, particularly since most seafarers come from countries eligible for vaccines through that scheme. Similarly the shipping industry have approached the pharmaceutical industry for access to vaccines for seafarers.
Multiple UN agencies including the WHO and IMO have confirmed that currently vaccines are not available for purchase by a private entity unless a State agency is directly involved. It is noted that some public private partnerships have been established notably in the Philippines, however, these are also run by State agencies.
Many ship owners and managers have reported that they have been approached by private entities offering to provide vaccines to seafarers. The industry group would caution against the use of privately obtained vaccines as their legitimacy and efficacy may be questionable.
The shipping industry group remains committed to ensuring that seafarers are properly vaccinated using WHO EUL approved vaccines provided by appropriate State agencies. It is hoped that private vaccinations will be available in most countries soon. Industry organisations will continue to lobby for the vaccination of seafarers at the earliest point. This note has been developed by ICS, BIMCO, CLIA, ECSA, ICMA, IMCA, IMEC, IMHA, INTERCARGO, InterManager, INTERTANKO, ISOA, ITF and WSC.
 COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, abbreviated as COVAX, is a global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines led by UNICEF, Gavi, WHO, CEPI, and others. For further information see: https://www.who.int/initiatives/act-accelerator/covax
- IMO – UN organizations issue joint call for seafarers and aircrew to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.38 on 26 March 2021 (IMO link), informing that:
- The joint statement of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the World Health Organization (WHO) reiterates the call upon countries that have not done so to designate seafarers and aircrew as key workers.
- All United Nations Member States are urged to prioritize seafarers and aircrew in their national COVID-19 vaccination programmes, to protect them through vaccination as soon as possible and to facilitate their safe movement across borders.
- WHO information package
09 Mar 2021:
- Tokyo MoU Remote PSC Inspections
PSC regime Tokyo MoU announced on 9 Mar 2021, on its website http://www.tokyo-mou.org/, to launch remote PSC inspections as a practical alternative in the interim, where and when a normal physical PSC inspection not feasible.
Although it said “a guidance on remote PSC inspection has been developed and adopted in order to facilitate member Authorities and PSCOs to carry out remote PSC inspections in the effective and harmonized manner”, its website has not made the guidance available for reference.
With the introduction of the Tokyo MoU’s “remote PSC inspections” scheme, onboard team should be adequately prepared for their vessel to be selected and receive remote PSC inspections in Asia as well as in Australia as AMSA is one member of Tokyo MoU.
We did notice that there was a document of “Interim Guidance relating to COVID-19 circumstances” on the above Tokyo MoU webpage on 1 Mar 2021. But it seems not the “guidance on remote PSC inspection”. Still, it is useful information and deserves close attention.
01 Mar 2021:
- PSC – Tokyo MOU Interim Guidance Relating to Covid-19 Circumstances
Taking into account the significant impacts to the shipping industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the continuing effects of the crisis, Tokyo MOU published the interim guidance relating to COVID-19 circumstances (link) on 1 Mar 2021. The guidance is consisting of three parts:
- Preventive measure to halt the spread of COVID-19
- Section refers to personal protective equipment (PPE) for protecting both PSCOs and ship crew
- Ship certification issues and COVID-19
- Section corresponds to application of pragmatic approach/relaxation for issues on interval of surveys and audits, duration of certificates and installation of BWM equipment
- Crew related issues and COVID-19
- Section deals with the harmonized approach to the issues of crew change (MLC 2006) and STCW certification.
8 Feb 2021
- Guidance for flag States regarding surveys and renewals of certificates during the COVID-19 pandemic
Following its Circular Letter No.4204/Add.19/Rev.1 on 10 Jul and No.4204/Add.19/Rev.2 on 22 Jul 2020, IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.19/Rev.3 on 8 Feb 2021, with an update version of the IACS Guidance for flag States regarding surveys and renewals of certificates during the COVID-19 pandemic. (download link)
Decisions concerning the issuance of short-term certificates or the extension of statutory certificates are the responsibility of flag States. IACS member classification societies, in their role as ROs acting on behalf of flag States, have developed the annexed “Guiding principles for the provision of technical and implementation advice to flag States when considering whether to permit statutory certificate extension beyond 3 months” for the provision of technical and implementation advice to flag States when considering whether to issue short-term certificates or permit certificate extensions beyond the 3 months allowed by the IMO treaty regime. The Guiding Principles represent a step-based approach to informed decision-making that respects the existing regulatory regime and can result in an objective documented assessment of evidence for the justification of the issuance of a short-term certificate or other measures.
26 Jan 2021
- Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change
INTERCARGO is a signatory of The Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change (details at link).
The Declaration defines four main actions to facilitate crew changes and keep global supply chains functioning.
- Recognize seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to Covid-19 vaccines
- Establish and implement gold standard health protocols based on existing best practice
- Increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes
- Ensure air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers.
14 Jan 2021
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.35/Rev.2 as attached on 12 Jan 2021, informing of 52 notifications from Member States and Associate Members that have designated seafarers as key workers.
08 Jan 2021
INTERCARGO is an active member of a joint industry Vaccination Taskforce which holds weekly meetings to update development, identify crew vaccination issues and lobby for/promote practical measure to facilitate crew vaccination.
INTERCARGO Members are invited to voice their concerns, share experiences and make suggestions via email@example.com. They would be raised at the joint industry Vaccination Taskforce meetings for attention and for action.
29 Dec 2020:
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.37 on 22 Dec 2020, informing of the outcome of the Third video meeting for Port State Control (PSC) regimes on harmonized actions at the time of pandemic of Covid-19. It highlights that most PSC regimes expressed intention of harmonized use of the Paris MoU PSCircular97 on Temporary Guidance related to COVID-19 for PSC Authorities (Revision 5) (link), dated 17 Dec 2020.
23 Dec 2020:
- IMO speaks out against “no crew change” clauses in charterparties
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.36 on “no crew change” clauses, pointing out that such “no crew change” clauses in charterparties:
- undermine the efforts undertaken to solve the existing crisis and go against the urgent calls recently made by the United Nations General Assembly, the Maritime Safety Committee and the ILO Governing Body to designate seafarers as key workers and facilitate crew changes.
- exacerbate the mental and physical fatigue among exhausted seafarers, undermine compliance with the provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, as amended (MLC, 2006) and further threaten the safety of navigation.
The Circular Letter highlights that:
- Resolving the crew change crisis requires the best efforts of all stakeholders. The elimination of the use of ʺno crew changeʺ clauses is just one of those efforts.
18 Dec 2020:
- IMO unified interpretation of the term “unforeseen delay in the delivery of ships” during COVID-19 Pandemic
IMO issued a circular MSC.1/Circ.1637, bringing all parties concerned to the attention of a unified interpretation (UI) as attached and inviting to use it when applying the relevant provisions of SOLAS regulation II-1/3-10.
11 Dec 2020:
- Video produced by IMO
IMO has just published a video highlighting the plight of seafarers who are still stranded at sea and has issued a strong call for their fundamental rights to be respected: https://youtu.be/WQmANFJ52bM.
09 Dec 2020:
- Media Release
INTERCARGO Media Release – “INTERCARGO calls for seafarers to receive COVID-19 vaccine as a priority” (link)
- ILO resolution concerning COVID-19 pandemic (adopted on 8 December 2020)
The International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted a Resolution as attached, to address the seafarer situation under COVID-19 pandemic. It comes just a few days after the UN General Assembly adopted a complementary resolution on ‘International cooperation to address challenges faced by seafarers due to the COVID-19 pandemic to support global supply chains’.
The ILO Resolution identifies:
• obstacles to crew changes, and to establish and implement measurable, time-bound plans to ensure safe crew change and travel of seafarers, taking into account the existing Recommended Framework of Protocols** for crew change and any subsequent revisions;
• Designating seafarers as “key workers”, for the purpose of facilitation of safe and unhindered movement for embarking or disembarking a vessel, and of shore leave;
• Ensuring seafarers who require immediate medical care are given access to medical facilities ashore, emergency medical treatment regardless of nationality and, where necessary, emergency repatriation;
• Considering temporary measures including waivers, exemptions or other changes to visa or documentary requirements.
**IMO circular MSC.1/Circ.1636, dated 2 December 2020
01 Dec 2020:
The UN General Assembly adopted the resolution on International cooperation to address challenges faced by seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to support global supply chains (link), during a session of the 75th United Nations General Assembly on 1 December 2020.
The UN resolution:
- “Urges Member States to designate seafarers and other marine personnel as key workers;
- “Calls upon Governments to promptly implement relevant measures designed to facilitate maritime crew changes, including by enabling embarkment and disembarkment and expediting travel and repatriation efforts as well as ensuring access to medical care”.
Refer to the IMO webpage for more info about this encouraging development: https://www.imo.org/en/MediaCentre/PressBriefings/Pages/44-seafarers-UNGA-resolution.aspx.
26 Nov 2020:
INTERCARGO in RoundTable Joint Media Release – “Shipping bodies call on Jeff Bezos to take a stand for stranded seafarers at industry Round Table” (link)
23 Nov 2020:
- WHO e-learning courses on managing COVID-19 cases and outbreaks on board ships
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.34 on 19 Nov 2020, informing of WHO’s two e-learning courses, as attached:
- “Promoting public health measures in response to COVID-19 on cargo ships and fishing vessels”. The link for the course is: https://extranet.who.int/hslp/training/course/view.php?id=344
- “Operational considerations for managing COVID-19 cases and outbreaks on board ships”. The link for the course is: https://extranet.who.int/hslp/training/enrol/index.php?id=326&lang=en
- IMO – Outcome of Industry roundtable meeting
IMO hosted an Industry roundtable meeting on 13 Nov 2020, to promote a frank exchange of views on the crew change crisis, with a view to arriving at new ideas for solutions and follow-on action to address the crew change crisis in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
based on the input at the meeting, a list of actions were proposed by IMO which would be considered by the UN interagency strategy group on the crew change crisis that takes place weekly between various UN agencies, including IMO, ILO and UNGC.
Contact info@Intercargo.org for a copy of the list of the proposed actions.
13 Nov 2020:
- Seafarers Delivering Christmas Campaign
INTERCARGO is one of the supporting organisations to a joint industry initiative – Seafarers Delivering Christmas Campaign (link). INTERCARGO Members are encouraged to actively participate and support this important initiative for our seafarers.
The flyer “Seafarers Delivering Christmas” as attached outlines how different groups and individuals can participate in this cross industry campaign in a variety of different ways and help to ensure our seafarers are properly recognised during this particularly challenging year.
The following organisations are partners of this initiative:
- International Chamber of Shipping
- International Transport Workers Federation
- International Christian Maritime Association
- Ocean Technologies Group
- Seafarers Hospital Society
- Seafarers UK
- ITF Seafarers Trust
The initiative will also be publicised by IMO, ILO, the EC, and the UN Global Compact.
02 Nov 2020:
INTERCARGO Media Release – “Charterers preventing crew change must be held to account” (link)
12 Oct 2020:
INTERCARGO Media Release – “INTERCARGO Meetings Address Key Industry Issues” (link)
Many industry Associations, including INTERCARGO wrote to the Maritime Industry Authority of the Philippines on 7 Oct, requesting:
- the opening of the Ports of Manila, Port Capinpin in Bataan and the Port of Subic, in Zambales for crew change purposes;
- to introduce temporary visa waivers for crew changes through appropriate means;
- to create, in consultation with the aviation industry and other countries, the necessary conditions for seafarer air corridors between crew supply countries and major seaport countries so as to increase access, as soon as possible, to commercial flights;
- for allowing seafarers of any nationality to stay in the country until the arrival of the flight or ship without restricting the number of days.
Similar letter (as attached) would be sent to other countries in Asia, requesting solution on issues specific in those countries.
IMO issued a Circular Letter No. 4204-Add.4-Rev.2 on 9 Oct 2020, with the updated version of the Guidance for Ship Operators for the Protection of the Health of Seafarers, prepared by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) (link)
07 Oct 2020:
An IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.14 was first issued on 5 May 2020 with the Framework of Protocols developed by a broad cross section of global industry associations, including INTERCARGO. Full title of the Framework of Protocols is:
- Recommended Framework of Protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
A revised version of the Framework of Protocols was finalised a few days ago. The IMO via its circular Letter No.4204-Add-14-Rev.1 issued the revised version of the Framework of Protocols on 5 Oct 2020, as attached.
The revised version emphasised the need for compliance and strict adherence with COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements, reflecting that these are now a reality in many national jurisdictions. The changes also reinforce the importance of seafarers not commencing or continuing to travel if they feel unwell or suspect that they may have COVID-19 symptoms. Some additional recommendations have also been included to prevent infection on board when seafarers join their ship. With the exception of a few minor editorials, no other substantive changes have been made.
We would join the call from IMO which supports these Protocols and urges their implementation.
30 Sept 2020:
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) issued a circular with relevant information about current COVID-19 testing and quarantine practices. It provides guidance to facilitate crew as passenger to prepare for boarding their flights using Public Health Corridors (PHC) during the COVID-19 pandemic. (link)
ICS et al have produced version 3 of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) guidance for ship operators for the protection of the Health of Seafarers. (link)
24 Sept 2020:
INTERCARGO Media Release – “World Maritime Day 2020: Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet” (link)
22 Sept 2020:
IMO Resolution on Crew Change
At the 2nd extraordinary meeting of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee, held on 21 Sept, the Committee adopted the resolution MSC.473(ES.2) on Recommended action to facilitate ship crew change, access to medical care and seafarer travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, as attached.
This resolution would help relevant authorities of IMO Member States to respond to the humanitarian and safety crisis faced by seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and, consequently, minimize disruptions to global trade, supply chains and efficient operation of maritime transport; and ensure the continued movement of food and livestock, products and essential goods by sea.
21 Sept 2020:
World Maritime Day
On World Maritime Day, 24 Sept 2020, IMO, ILO and the United Nations Global Compact, in collaboration with the ICS and ITF, are bringing together heads of UN agencies, governments, multinational corporations, and shipowner and seafarer representatives, to discuss the present crisis and raise awareness for the important and unsung role of seafarers.
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.22/Rev.2, dated 17 Sept 2020, informing:
- The Singapore Crew Change Guidebook has now been revised following updates to Singapore’s crew change requirements (see attached).
Paris MoU issued a PSCircular 97 on Temporary Guidance Related To COVID-19 for PSC Authorities (REV.4), dated 15 Sept 2020 (link). The 4-page PSCircular 97 contains the following sections:
- Preventive measure to halt the spread of COVID-19
- Ship Certification Issues and COVID-19
- Crew related issues and COVID-19
18 Sept 2020:
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.31 on 17 Sept 2020, informing a Joint Statement by UNCTAD, ICAO, UNECA, UNECE, UNECLAC, UNESCAP and IMO:
- Joint Statement on the contribution of international trade and supply chains to a sustainable socio-economic recovery in COVID-19 times. (link)
- It is calling on all Governments to maximize the contribution of international trade and supply chains to a sustainable socio-economic recovery in post-COVID-19 times through greater use of international legal instruments and standards, as well as strengthened regional and sectoral cooperation.
- IMO strongly encourages its Member States to take note of the tools and measures identified in the statement and bring the contents of this Circular Letter to the attention of the competent health, immigration, border control and maritime authorities, at both national and local levels.
15 Sept 2020:
WHO issued an Interim guidance on Promoting public health measures in response to COVID-19 on cargo ships and fishing vessels, on 25 Aug 2020. Click here to download.
14 Sept 2020:
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.30 on 11 Sept 2020, as attached, with a Joint Statement by IMO, ILO, UNCTAD, ICAO, et al., calling on all Governments to immediately recognize seafarers as key workers, and to take swift and effective action to eliminate obstacles to crew changes.
IMO strongly encourages the Member States to take urgent action to address this issue and bring the contents of this Circular Letter to the attention of the competent health, immigration, border control and maritime authorities, at both national and local levels, as well as all other parties concerned, in particular ports and airports.
09 Sept 2020:
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.29 on 4 Sept 2020 with the request of the IMO Secretary General:
- Member States should consider raising the issue of seafarers and the crew change crisis during the upcoming high-level week of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly beginning on 22 September 2020.
The IMO Secretary General reiterates:
“The crew change crisis must be resolved at the soonest possible time. Doing so requires a whole of government approach, across multiple ministries. In that light, I reiterate my call to all Member States to:
- “Designate all seafarers and marine personnel (not only nationals) within their jurisdiction as key workers providing an essential service.
- “Implement the protocols and guidance in the Circular Letter No.4204 series and allow for safe and secure crew changes.
- “Remove other barriers to crew changes, such as visa restrictions, flight restrictions, national travel and movement restrictions, access to medical care and testing, etc”.
04 Sept 2020:
- Circular Letter No.4204/Add.28, dated 26 August 2020, on WHO guidance to promote public health measures on cargo ships and fishing vessels (link);
- Circular Letter No.4204/Add.27, dated 26 August 2020, on Protocols to mitigate the risks of cases on board ships (link).
27 July 2020:
INTERCARGO Media Release – “Crew change: Drastic measures needed now” (link)
13 July 2020:
- IMO – Guidance for flag States regarding surveys and renewals of certificates
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.19/Rev.1 on Guidance for flag States regarding surveys and renewals of certificates during the COVID-19 pandemic. (link)
IACS member classification societies have developed the “Guiding principles for the provision of technical and implementation advice to flag States when considering whether to permit statutory certificate extension beyond 3 months” for the provision of technical and implementation advice to flag States when considering whether to issue short-term certificates or permit certificate extensions beyond the 3 months allowed by the IMO treaty regime. The Guiding Principles represent a step-based approach to informed decision-making that respects the existing regulatory regime and can result in an objective documented assessment of evidence for the justification of the issuance of a short-term certificate or other measures.
IMO urges Governments to carefully consider the introduction of restrictions which would affect the conduct of statutory surveys, so that the survey and certification regime can continue to operate as normal, ships can comply with the relevant mandatory requirements and Parties can adhere to their obligations under treaties.
IMO is aware that, in circumstances where it has been impossible to conduct surveys for certification purposes, some flag States have introduced alternative arrangements, such as issuing short-term certificates or extending certificates beyond the statutory maximum.
It is the view of the IMO that the extension of the validity of certificates beyond the statutory maximum should only be considered in extraordinary circumstances and if no other alternative, such as the issuance of a short-term certificate with an appropriate risk-based survey, exists. The issuance of short-term certificates or other measures should be limited to specific situations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and relevant decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis.
10 July 2020:
- International Maritime Summit on Crew Change
ILO welcomed a joint statement signed by more than a dozen countries at the International Maritime Summit on 9 Jul 2020 that gives seafarers enhanced rights as key workers. The new measures, also supported by other UN agencies and international organizations, enable seafarers to be repatriated and move more freely during the pandemic. (link)
IMO sees the Summit as “represents significant progress to help resolve a growing crisis facing the maritime industry, and enable hundreds of thousands of stranded seafarers to go home or join ships”. It welcomed the commitment of 13 countries to facilitate crew changes and achieve key worker designation for seafarers, following a virtual ministerial summit hosted by the UK Government on 9 July. (link)
7 July 2020:
- Coastal States on prompt disembarkation of seafarers for medical care ashore
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.23 with Recommendations for port and coastal States on the prompt disembarkation of seafarers for medical care ashore during the COVID-19 pandemic.
IMO is aware that one of the many challenges facing international shipping during the COVID-19 pandemic has been arranging access for seafarers to medical care ashore. Addressing this challenge requires that relevant authorities in port and coastal States meet their obligations under relevant international regulations and work with ships to protect the health of seafarers and the general public, thus ensuring that global supply chains continue to function as required during the pandemic.
IMO urges the dissemination and implementation of Recommendations for port and coastal States on the prompt disembarkation of seafarers for medical care ashore during the COVID-19 pandemic. Member States, in their capacities as port and coastal States, are invited to apply the Recommendations and bring them to the attention of all concerned, in particular border control and port health authorities.
6 July 2020:
Sound ship’s horns:
With support to the ICS initiative, INTERCARGO members are invited to encourage ships captains of your fleet to sound the ship’s horns when in port at 12.00 local on Wednesday, 8 July as a way of reminding governments not to forget the crew change issue.
We want to encourage as many ships as possible across the world, who are in a port or harbour, to sound their horns (as is safe to do so and in compliance with local regulations) at 12.00 local time on Wednesday, 8th July.
Please also refer to INTERCARGO’s post on social media here
30 Jun 2020:
IMO: Governments must act to bring seafarers home
IMO hosted a Webinar “Get our hero seafarers home” on the occasion of the Day of the Seafarer, delivering a strong message urging countries to implement protocols on safe crew change developed by the maritime industry and circulated by IMO. (link, 29/06/2020)
25 Jun 2020:
On the occasion of the Day of the Seafarer, charity organisation “The Mission to Seafarers” is reaching out to all of us working within the shipping industry to set up a personal direct debit to help them continue do their valuable work. It is a simple process and should not take up much of time, but it will help them enormously.
Contact with Mr Tom Boardley, Chairman of The Mission to Seafarers (T +44 (0)20 7248 5202 E firstname.lastname@example.org) for more details, or click here to download the letter from The Mission to Seafarers.
24 Jun 2020:
INTERCARGO Media Release – Day of the Seafarer: “Slow Response from Governments Pushing Seafarers to their Limits” (link)
INTERCARGO’s Vice Chairman Capt Jay K Pillai voices the concerns of members on PRC crew change during COVID-19 at an HKSOA webinar event on 24 Jun 2020 (link). His message includes:
- We request the relevant authorities in China to allow all Mainland ports to permit crew change at least for Chinese national without any restrictions. If Chinese Government allows TRANSIT of PRC Seafarers through Hong Kong SAR on ANY Airlines (lots of flight connections), we can relieve all our PRC crew promptly.
- We request the support and compassion for our PRC Seafarers from both the Hong Kong SAR Government and Chinese Mainland Government. You have ratified SOLAS, STCW, MLC and Ship Owners look upto your support to facilitate crew changes in accordance with UN/IMO/ILO/ICAO circulars.
- TIME IS RUNNING OUT –A DISASTER IS WAITING TO HAPPEN WITH FATIGUED SEAFARERS OPERATING SHIPS IN BUSY PORTS AND NAVIGATING BUSY SHIPPING LANES.
22 Jun 2020:
IMO – annual Day of the Seafarer, 25 Jun 2020, webpage (link) highlights that:
- This year, the Day of the Seafarer campaign calls on Member States to recognize seafarers as key workers – and to provide them with the support, assistance and travel options open to all key workers during the pandemic.
12 June 2020:
INTERCARGO Media Release of Urgent video message: “Crew Change – time is running out” (link)
IMO issued Circular Letter No.4204/Add.22 on 11 June 2020 (link), informing of the Singapore Crew Change Guidebook (see also https://www.ssa.org.sg/images/ssa/pdf/SG-Crew-Change-Guidebook.pdf).
Recognizing the ongoing challenges that the industry is facing to effect crew change in Singapore, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) initiated the formation of the Singapore Crew Change Working Group with its tripartite partners: the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) and the Singapore Maritime Officersʹ Union (SMOU), and in cooperation with the International Maritime Employersʹ Council Ltd (IMEC) and the World Shipping Council (WSC). The Working Group developed this Guidebook which provides guidance to the shipping community on how to effect crew change in Singapore during these extraordinary times.
IMO supports the initiative of Singapore, and invite its Member States and the relevant international organizations to take this initiative as a model to develop similar guidance to address crew change.
09 Jun 2020:
IMO issued Circular Letter No.4204/Add.21 on 8 June 2020 (link), informing of:
- Joint statement IMO-UNCTAD – Call for collaborative action in support of keeping ships moving, ports open and cross-border trade flowing during the COVID-19 pandemic
Crew Change Report
The first Crew Change Report (Jun 1 2020) was circulated by ICS on the responses to date (reported crew changes up to end of May 2020).
- An ICS Crew Change Report Form was launched in mid-May to enable ICS to collect information on crew changes attempted during the COVID-19 pandemic. (https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/CrewChangeReportForm)
- The Crew Change Report Form has received 1152 reports to date, which provides a snapshot of the crew changes attempted worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- This report covers the reports of crew changes attempted in May 2020. Findings in this report are based on a sample size of 816 crew changes attempted in ports or terminals in 73 countries in May 2020.
- Crew changes are reported to have been successfully completed in 50 different countries in May 2020.
Contact email@example.com for details of the first Crew Change Report (Jun 1 2020).
03 Jun 2020:
IMO issued a Circular Letter on 2 Jun on Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Guidance for flag States regarding surveys and renewals of certificates during the COVID-19 pandemic (link), informing that:
- IMO urges Governments to carefully consider the introduction of restrictions which would affect the conduct of statutory surveys, so that the survey and certification regime can continue to operate as normal, ships can comply with the relevant mandatory requirements and Parties can adhere to their obligations under treaties.
- the extension of the validity of certificates beyond the statutory maximum should only be considered in extraordinary circumstances and if no other alternative, such as the issuance of a short-term certificate with an appropriate risk-based survey, exists. The issuance of short-term certificates or other measures should be limited to specific situations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and relevant decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis.
01 Jun 2020:
A webinar on COVID-19 and maritime labour issues: Impact and Responses is to be co-organized by the International Labour Organization and the International Training Centre of the ILO on Friday 5 Jun 2020, in collaboration with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). (details here)
This webinar will highlight the concerns affecting the employment of seafarers during the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular in light of the provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, as amended (MLC, 2006).
To join the webinar from 11:00 to 12:30 CET on 5 Jun 2020, click here.
28 May 2020:
IMO issued Circular Letter No.4204/Add.18 on dated 26 May 2020 (link), with the Joint Statement of IMO, ICAO and ILO on designation of seafarers as key workers. The Joint Statement requests IMO Member States to take urgent action on crew changes to relieve and repatriate crew in a safe way during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The updated version of the Guidance for Ship Operators for the Protection of the Health of Seafarers (link) was released by ICS. An earlier version was previously issued in March 2020.
The 48-page document provides comprehensive recommendations on:
- Safe port entry
- Shipboard measures to address risks associated with COVID-19
- Managing an outbreak of COVID-19 on board ships
- Managing other medical issues during COVID-19, including medical assistance to seafarers in ports
26 May 2020:
Singapore MPA issued a Circular No. 026 of 2020 on 22 May (link). One INTERCARGO member reminded us that:
- There is a new restriction ( Required 14 days Notice before any attempt of crew changes is made ) imposed by the MPA which is making things more difficult than before.
22 May 2020:
- WHO/Joint UN Agency Webinar on COVID-19 and the health of seafarers (28 May 2020)
Members are invited to contact their respective administrations (government departments of Health, Labour and Transport and their maritime directorates) and encourage them to register for the WHO/Joint UN Agency Webinars on COVID -19 and the Health of seafarers. The webinar will be hosted twice on Thursday 28 May 2020 to accommodate multiple time zones:
- Thursday, 28 May – 11h00-12h00 Geneva; 14h30 Delhi; 05h00 Washington
Please find the details (link) relating to the webinar being convened to educate all governmental contacts in the National Departments of Health, Labour and Maritime Directorates.
- IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.17 (21 May 2020)
IMO issued Circular Letter No.4204/Add.17 on 21 May 2020:
- Circular Letter No.4204/Add.17 – Coronavirus (COVID 19) – Preparing for post COVID-19 operations: considerations and practicalities for port community systems, single window and other electronic exchange platforms
- EU COVID-19 transport measures (20 May 2020)
The EU webpage (link) informs that European Council adopts temporary flexibility for licences and port services:
- The EU is adapting certain rules for different transport sectors to help companies and authorities cope in the extraordinary circumstances created by the coronavirus crisis. The Council adopted temporary measures enabling the extension of the validity of certain certificates and licences in road, rail and waterborne transport, and relaxing the rules on charging ships for the use of port infrastructures.
20 May 2020:
A few shipping associations are collecting feedback via their webpages, such as InterManager’s (link), the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC) (link) and ICS’ (link to the ‘one minute’ Crew Change Survey). The InterManager’s and IMEC’ webpages show tables with details of the nationalities of seafarers who have been relieved, while the ICS webpage is a reporting channel. The ICS intention is to issue the results every second week, in order to begin maintaining a ‘white list’ of those countries in which crew changes are being successfully undertaken, which will hopefully indicate progress in the immediate days and weeks ahead. Another useful webpage is the “Coronavirus – Global Port Restrictions Map” of Wilhelmsen Ships Service (link).
To assist members in assessing what is happening in the bulk carrier sector, we encourage members to report the following items and a summary of the reports would be shared with members and other shipping associations for reference:
1). Date of crew change:
2). Name of Port/Terminal:
4). Was the crew change successful? Yes or no
5). Type of crew change permitted by relevant authorities
- Crew can join and leave the ship (tick to select )
- Crew can only join the ship (tick to select )
- Crew can only leave the ship (tick to select )
6). Nationalities permitted for crew change by relevant authorities
- Both foreign nationals and nationals of the country where the port/terminal is located (tick to select )
- Only nationals of the country where the port/terminal is located (tick to select )
7). Did the crew change involve the use of an airport in the same country as the port/terminal?
8). If possible, please provide further information about the crew change, such as nationalities of crew involved, numbers of crew involved, if there were any visa issues etc.
15 May 2020:
International industry associations sent out messages to request national associations, in liaison with local unions, to use the joint ICS/ITF “template” letter (link) to national ministers responsible for shipping and aviation, as well as national airlines, to promote use of the new Framework of Crew Change Protocols (link) and the resumption of crew change flights. “Template” letter aims to assist the dialogue with Governments and airlines.
13 May 2020:
The shipmanager’s association InterManager sets up a webpage (link) to share their successful crew repatriation achievements, irrespective of whether they are in-house or third party. There is a table with details of the nationalities of seafarers who have been relieved.
The European Commission publishes a package of guidelines and recommendations to help EU Member States gradually lift travel restrictions and allow tourism businesses to reopen (link).
The European Commission’s Tourism and Transport package includes:
- An overall strategy towards recovery in 2020 and beyond;
- A common approach to restoring free movement and lifting restrictions at EU internal borders in a gradual and coordinated way;
- A framework to support the gradual re-establishment of transport whilst ensuring the safety of passengers and personnel;
- A recommendation which aims to make travel vouchers an attractive alternative to cash reimbursement for consumers;
- Criteria for restoring tourism activities safely and gradually and for developing health protocols for hospitality establishments such as hotels.
11 May 2020:
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.16 (6 May 2020) – Coronavirus (COVID 19) – COVID-19 related guidelines for ensuring a safe shipboard interface between ship and shore-based personnel.
Paris MoU guidance on COVID-19 updated and available for the industry, 8 May (link). The existing “temporary guidance to accept extensions of ships’ certificates with three months” has been reconsidered to recognise:
- It is impossible to predict how long the pandemic will last, nor how a return to ordinary circumstances will be shaped. In view of this, the Paris MoU has considered that a limitation of three months in the guidance may be too short to address the challenges currently being faced and therefore has amended its guidance. Having considered the exceptional circumstances, extensions of the validity of certificates to an appropriate and proportional grace period specific to COVID-19 may be accepted.
The Indian Ocean MoU issued a press release on (link) on 16 Apr, informing of the revision of the earlier guidelines issued via Press Release dated 20th March 2020 with respect to relaxation period mentioned in various scenarios is now to be read as follows: “This pragmatic relaxation / exemptions / dispensations granted by the flag state administration / R.O for an appropriate grace period beyond the relaxation periods permitted under various conventions for surveys, inspections and audits of ships and for certificates / documents of seafarers required as per MLC and STCW conventions specific to situations arising due to outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic should be accepted by the port State authorities. Any vessel beyond this grace period should be treated in the normal manner”
TOKYO MoU issued a press release on 10 Apr to inform of revising the guidance for dealing with the impact of the pandemic of the COVID-19 (http://www.tokyo-mou.org/). The revised guidance will be effective from 15 April 2020.
08 May 2020:
IMO issued Circular Letter No.4204/Add.15 on 7 May 2020 (link):
- Coronavirus (COVID 19) – Personal protective equipment
This Circular Letter provides World Health Organization (WHO) information and guidance on the safe and effective use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to support decisions on use of PPE to minimize the risks of COVID-19 infection for seafarers et al.
06 May 2020:-
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204-Add.14 (link to download) on 5 May 2020, informing maritime administrations, national authorities, and shipping companies of the Recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Recommended framework of protocols is proposed to IMO by ICS, IAPH, BIMCO, IFSMA, INTERTANKO, P&I Clubs, CLIA, INTERCARGO, InterManager, IPTA, IMCA, INTERFERRY, FONASBA, ITF and WSC, and taking account of input from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The protocols with a 12-step solution set out the responsibility of governments, shipowners, transport providers, and seafarers. The 12-step solution provides governments with the global framework to facilitate changeovers of ships’ crews, including the lack of available flights and to assist governments to put in place coordinated procedures to facilitate the safe movement of seafarers. The 55-page document is a roadmap to free seafarers from their COVID-19 lockdown and allow appropriate exemptions for them to join or leave ships. It has been advanced by a broad coalition of seafarer 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.
There is another useful document, the COVID-19 Related Guidelines for Ensuring a Safe Shipboard Interface between Ship and Shore-Based Personnel, issued by ICS, IAPH, BIMCO, IACS, IMPA, IFSMA, INTERTANKO, IG P&I, CLIA, INTERCARGO, InterManager, IPTA, FONASBA, WSC, IMEC and ISOA on 6 May 2020 (link to download).
28 April 2020:-
INTERCARGO Media Release: Crew Change for ‘Key Workers’ at Sea Must be Top of the Industry’s Agenda (link)
IMO issued following Circular Letters:
- Circular Letter No.4204/Add.11 (link), dated 24 April 2020, informing of the EC Guidelines on protection of health, repatriation and travel arrangements for seafarers, passengers and other persons on board ships;
- Circular Letter No.4204/Add.12 (link), dated 27 April 2020, informing of the Declaration by Port Authorities Roundtable (PAR) members in view of the global COVID-19 situation.
24 Apr 2020:-
The Mission To Seafarers has set up a donation webpage (link) to raise funds to support their on-line chaplaincy welfare services to seafarers and responses to the Covid-19 crisis. To download the event leaflet please see this link.
23 Apr 2020:-
In addition to the personal message from IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim to seafarers on 21 April 2020 as posted on the IMO webpage “You are not alone” on 21 Apr (link),
IMO also issued a Circular Letter No.4204/Add.10, dated 22 April 2020 (link), the Joint Statement IMO-WHO-ILO on medical certificates of seafarers, ship sanitation certificates and medical care of seafarers in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, with key points as follows:
Medical care of seafarers
Port State must ensure that seafarers on board ships in their territory who are in need of immediate medical care are given access to medical facilities on shore.
ILO is providing information to assist Governments … to take consistent actions under these exceptional circumstances…
… include the need to address the situation of seafarers who, doe to their unforeseen longer periods on board, are facing expiration of essential medical prescriptions and the consideration of the testing of seafarers immediately prior to their joining their ships…
Medical certificates of seafarers
If a medical certificate expires during the course of a voyage, then it shall continue to be valid until the next port of call where a medical practitioner …is available, provided that the additional time needed does not exceed three months.
Port State control authorities are further encouraged to take a pragmatic and practical approach in relation to the acceptance of these certificates in the exercise of control procedures …
Ship Sanitation Certificates – Extraordinary temporary measures
Governments are invited to request the submission of the Maritime Declaration of Heath by all arriving ships. In the absence of information of valid suspicion or confirmed active case(s) of COVID-19 on board reported through the Maritime Declaration of Heath, or their agents in accordance with Article 28(4) of the International Health Regulation (IHR) (2005), issuing Administrations are encouraged to accept an exceptional extension of the Ship Sanitation Certificates, and to notify shipowners, seafarers and relevant Administrations accordingly. They may:
- Provide for the extension of an existing Ship Sanitation Certificate by one month… on one or more occasions as necessary,…
21 Apr 2020:-
ILO and IMO, along with the European Commission, have stated that Seafarers should be officially recognized as key workers and granted exemptions from travel restrictions so they can join and leave their ships and return home without impediment, while complying with infection control.
ICS and ITF have jointly prepared letter templates (click here to download) to facilitate free movement for seafarers to and from vessels, aiming to assist facilitation of free movement for seafarers to and from vessels.
They recommend that shipping companies use this template which, once fully completed and on company headed paper, should be given to affected seafarers.
The letter certifies that a seafarer should be allowed free passage to travel between their home and their vessel and has participated in a medical screening.
- WHO Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19, Interim guidance, 6 April 2020 (Link)
- WHO Measures to reduce transmission of COVID-19 (Link)
- COVID-19 Offshore Handbook, ACTA MARINE BV, (Link), Including:
- What to do if there is a sick person onboard suspected of COVID-19?
- Crew change
- North of England P&I Dealing with ship visitors and social distancing (Link)
20 April 2020:-
Joint WCO-IMO statement on the integrity of the global supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic
WCO has created a dedicated section in its website and included the following existing and newly developed instruments and tools relevant to the integrity and facilitation of the supply chain in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Resolution of the Customs Cooperation Council on the Role of Customs in Natural Disaster Relief;
- Guidelines to Chapter 5 of Specific Annex J to the International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures, as amended (Revised Kyoto Convention);
- Annex B.9 to the Convention on Temporary Admission (Istanbul Convention);
- Istanbul Convention Handbook;
- Harmonized System (HS) Classification reference for COVID-19 medical supplies;
- List of national legislation of countries that have adopted temporary export restrictions on certain categories of critical medical supplies in response to COVID-19; and
- List of WCO Members’ practices in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
16 April 2020:-
EMSA has created a single point of reference (link) which lists the information of the safe transportation of goods and people on board a vessel provided by the EU Member State.
IMO issued a Circular Letter No.4204-Add.8 on 14 Apr 2020 (link), informing that the Head of IMO held a video meeting with 10 port State control (PSC) regimes on 8 April 2020 with a view to promoting harmonized action, assistance and a pragmatic approach with respect to PSC inspections at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Circular Letter No.4204-Add.8 summarised the outcome of the meeting, including statements and/or relevant temporary guidance Issued by following PSC regimes:
- USCG: Vessel Inspection, Exams, and Documentation
- The Acuerdo De Viña Del Mar (Latin American Agreement on PSC): Provisional Guidance to fact the impact of Covid-19 with regard to IMO Conventions and MLC 2006
- The Caribbean MoU: Guidance for dealing with impact of the outbreak of the Covid-19
- Indian Ocean MoU: Guidance for dealing with impact of the outbreak of the Covid-19 related to relevant IMO Conventions and MLC 2006
- Mediterranean MoU: Med MoU on PSC Circular regarding COVID-19 Pandemic
- Paris MoU: Guidance regarding the impact of COVID-19
- Tokyo MoU: (i) Guidance for dealing with impact of the outbreak of the Covid-19, and (ii) Revising the Guidance for dealing with impact of the outbreak of the Covid-19
15 April 2020:-
The rationalized use and distribution of PPE when handling cargo from and to countries affected by the COVID-19 outbreak includes following these recommendations.
- Wearing a mask of any type is not recommended when handling cargo from an affected country.
- Gloves are not required unless they are used for protection against mechanical hazards, such as may occur when manipulating rough surfaces.
- Importantly, the use of gloves does not replace the need for appropriate hand hygiene, which should be performed frequently, as described above.
- When disinfecting supplies or pallets, no additional PPE is required beyond what is routinely recommended. To date, there is no epidemiological information to suggest that contact with goods or products shipped from countries affected by the COVID-19 outbreak have been the source of COVID-19 disease in humans. WHO will continue to closely monitor the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak and will update recommendations as needed.
Notes: it is assumed that the terms of “masks” and “groves” here in the WHO guidance are for the sole purpose of protection from COVID-19 and if no other reasons, eg cargo handling, dictate their use.
Charity group The Mission to Seafarers has launched a virtual challenge campaign called Global Champions Unite to raise awareness of the plight of seafarers and the funds to contribute towards a new digital chaplaincy welfare service to help support seafarers during the unprecedented international Covid-19 crisis. The Mission to Seafarers invites all of us to take part in the campaign in whatever capacity we can. Campaign website: https://crowdfunder.co.uk/emergency-support-for-developing-world-seafarers. To become a fundraiser or donate click this link.
For more details please download the leaflet here.
In the first few days The Mission to Seafarers has raised 10% of their target from nearly 70 donors and the charity gourp would greatly appreciate any help in spreading the word about the campaign to wider network.
All proceeds will be distributed through the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) https://www.seafarerswelfare.org/. ISWAN has agreed to ringfence the funding to ensure that 100% of the funds will be distributed to those seafarers and families in need.
The campaign is supported by ISWAN, the World Ocean Council (WOC), the Nautical Institute, Green Marine, the North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA) and the International Windship Association (IWSA).
14 Apr 2020:-
1. Experience sharing
To assess the level of impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on crew changes and to guide our focused actions, comments and suggestions are requested from members, on issues such as:
- Crew Change – Crew cannot sign off even in their country (say PRC crew in PRC at all ports), despite the fact they completed SEA+1 months which is 10 months for Ratings; ports?
- PRC Crew who have completed 12 months (max as per MLC) and ship who has never been to China cannot get off at ports of some countries such as Singapore. Any other countries?
- Crew getting infected during port interface with Covid-19 and inability to replace crew with countries in lockdown and no flights, no permission to enter, though relief crew standing by. Ports and Countries?
- Vessel sold and can’t be delivered as per MoA as crew visa for disembarkation on delivery cannot be issued. Known cases?
- Advance declaration of health for crew with slightest symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat, running nose, diarrhoea. Once Masters report it and vessel lose time in quarantine (say anywhere from 2 to 14 days). Experience sharing?
- Ship Sanitation Exemption Certificates expired and no free pratique. Delay awaiting quarantine inspection. Experience sharing?
- any information regarding crew members undergoing testing or who have tested positive for COVID-19. It is important for us to be able to track the number of crew affected on all ships and to report this to WHO and IMO to ensure appropriate measures are adopted.
- issues faced in procuring necessary medical supplies.
- any other employment concerns particularly in relation to crew change issues, and discrimination relating to crew nationality.
- any other issues arising in relation to the outbreak to be raised at an international level.
2. Joint ICS – ITF letter to G20
INTERCARGO appreciates and supports the initiative of Joint ICS – ITF letter to G20 (link) which is:
- calling on all Governments to identify ports in their countries, and appropriate airports nearby, from where crew changes can be resumed as soon as possible, and to inform IMO and the International Civil Aviation Organization accordingly.
- calling on Governments, in the event of medical emergencies, to provide visiting seafarers with access to emergency medical treatment ashore and, if necessary, to facilitate emergency repatriation as required by the ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006
- requesting as a matter of urgency, that national authorities should engage immediately with their national shipowners’ association, seafarers’ unions and other relevant stakeholders, in order to explore solutions to the serious problem of conducting crew changes, which otherwise risks impeding collective efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic whilst also allowing global supply chains to continue to function.
- suggesting that the establishment of a special G20 taskforce on the issue of ships’ crew changes would add greatly to an effective response to the coronavirus pandemic.
3. Additional info
An Information note at Annex 2 is from the International Labour Organisation (https://www.ilo.org/global/standards/maritime-labour-convention/WCMS_741024/lang–en/index.htm). This contains FAQs received by the ILO legal department relating to the MLC 2006 and COVID-19.
A new portal is produced by Helse Bergen. NCMDM and Radio Medico Norway have developed an interactive, internet based COVID-19 assessment tool aimed at helping seafarer’s on board to assess sick crew members or others on board. It also gives guidance on treatment of possible cases of COVID-19 including warning signs to look out for and advice on when to contact TMAS services. This is freely available to all and can be accessed at www.covid19atsea.no
09 Apr 2020:-
ILO website published the following on 7 Apr 2020:
Information note on maritime labour issues and coronavirus (COVID-19) (link)
- Including a joint statement of the Officers of the Special Tripartite Committee of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, as amended
This information note aims to respond to such requests by referring to the MLC, 2006, the work of the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR), a statement of the Officers of the Special Tripartite Committee of the MLC, 2006, (STC) and, when relevant, the recommendations published by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The European Commission (EC) posted Guidelines for persons on board ships:
- Guidelines on protection of health, repatriation and travel arrangements for seafarers, passengers and other persons on board ships, dated 08 April 2020 (link)
06 Apr 2020:
In the last few days, IMO has issued 20+ circular letters informing of the measures and arrangement of 20+ flag States in dealing with inspection, certificates, crew change, etc. Here is the IMO’s webpage summarising and providing download links to all the relevant circular letters, including:
- Circular Letter No.4204/Add.7 (3 April 2020) – Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Guidance concerning unforeseen delays in the delivery of ships
Other popular websites include:
- Guidance for the global shipping industry to help combat the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
- The World Ports Sustainability Program
- Coronavirus – Global Port Restrictions Map
- Ship management during COVID-19 pandemic
30 March 2020:
IMO: Preliminary list of recommendations for Governments and relevant national authorities on the facilitation of maritime trade during the COVID-19 pandemic – please refer to IMO Circular Letter No.4204-Add.6
IMO once again urges a practical and pragmatic approach
Further to the Circular Letter No.4204-Add.1 – Covid-19 – Implementation and Enforcement of Relevant IMO Instruments on 19 Feb, IMO issued another circular letter No.4224, dated 19 March 2020, once again urging a practical and pragmatic approach, in these unusual times, to issues like crew changeovers, resupply, repairs, survey and certification and licensing of seafarers.
It highlights that:
- “One of the goals of IMO, as stated in its Convention, is to ensure availability of shipping services to the commerce of the world, for the benefit of humanity”. … “all IMO Member States” are urged “to bear this in mind when framing their policy decisions with regard to the coronavirus. Defeating the coronavirus must be the first priority, but global trade, in a safe, secure and environmentally friendly manner must be able to continue, too”.
- “We must also remember the hundreds of thousands of seafarers on ships. They are, unwittingly, on the front line of this global calamity. Their professionalism ensures that the goods we all need are delivered – safely and with minimal impact on our precious environment. These are people, usually far from home and family. Their own health and welfare is as important as that of anyone else”.
The Secretary General of IMO will personally be initiating a series of meetings and consultations with leaders from shipping, ports and other key related sectors so that we can all better understand the issues being faced and develop sensible, practical and unified solutions.
You may refer to updates on IMO’s website at: http://www.imo.org/en/MediaCentre/HotTopics/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx
Guidance on the prevention and control of COVID-19 on board
IMO issued Circular Letter No.4221 on 18 Mar 2020 with the Guidance on the prevention and control of COVID-19 on board.
Coronavirus (Covid-19) – Guidance Relating to the Certification of Seafarers
IMO issued Circular Letter No.4204-Add.5 on 17 Mar 2020, encouraging:
- Flag States to take a pragmatic and practical approach with regard to the extension of the following certificates and endorsements, as strictly necessary:
- Revalidation of training certificates of seafarers, including medical certificates
- Issuance of endorsements attesting recognition of certificates in accordance with the STCW Convention 1978, as amended.
2. Port State control authorities to take a pragmatic and practical approach in relation to these certificate and endorsement extensions, and their acceptance in the exercise of control procedures in accordance with article X (Control) and regulation I/4 (Control procedures) of the 1978 STCW Convention, as amended.
International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF)
ITF issued a circular “ITF E-Circular No. 087/D/F/IN/S/SS/2020” on 17 Mar 2020, informing that:
- ITF has also learned that most flags have been issuing exemptions from the maximum service periods prescribed within the Maritime Labour Convention (Regulation 2.5 Standard A2.5.1 para 2(b)).
- In order to mitigate problems surrounding the replacement of crew, the ITF has decided that during the period from 17 March 2020 to 16 April 2020, it will not challenge extensions of contracts of up to one month, even when these push the seafarers service periods past the maximum allowable by relevant ITF approved CBA [or MLC], provided individual seafarers consent to such extensions
International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC)
IMEC, referring to the ITF Circular No.087, issued its “Circular (20)20“, commenting that:
- IMEC has been in discussions with the ITF […] in light of the mounting logistical difficulties our Members are facing when arranging crew reliefs due to the spread of the virus and the closure of many national borders (Philippines, Ukraine, Italy, France, Germany, USA to name a few).
- We can now report that our social partners have agreed to exercise some flexibility and join most flag states in allowing extensions that go beyond both the CBA and the MLC maximum lengths for at least the next 30 days.
IMO reiterates principles of avoiding unnecessary restrictions or delay on port entry to ships
IMO issued Circular Letter No.4204/Add.1 on 19 Feb 2020, reiterating principles of avoiding unnecessary restrictions or delay on port entry to ships:
- “in the current context of the outbreak, to ensure that, where appropriate, passengers can be embarked and disembarked, cargo operations can occur, ships can enter and depart shipyards for repair and survey, stores and supplies can be loaded, certificates can be issued and crews can be exchanged”.
The same Circular Letter No.4204/Add.1 also informs of the message of ILO:
- “In the context of the evolving coronavirus outbreak, the effective protection of the health and safety of seafarers should be a priority. Under the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, flag States must ensure that all seafarers on ships flying their flag are covered by adequate measures for the protection of their health and that they have access to prompt and adequate medical care whilst working on board. The Convention also requires port States to ensure that seafarers on board ships in their territory who are in need of immediate medical care are given access to medical facilities on shore.”
Flag State actions
INTERCARGO Members are encouraged to liaise with the flag States of your fleet and check for the latest update from them.
The flag States of your fleet may have sent you their notice about their “pragmatic and harmonized approach”. For instance, the Marine Advisory 07/2020 of Liberia, dated 24 Feb 2020, recognises potential difficulties faced by shipowners and requests that:
- “Shipowners and Operators who are or may be experiencing difficulties should contact the Administration immediately for assistance when the Inspector, Auditor or Surveyor is unable to attend.”
IMO Circular Letter No.4226 dated 20 Mar 2020, informing of the flexible arrangement of Canada on: “Extending the Validity of Canadian Marine Personnel Certificates.”
IMO Circular Letter No.4228 dated 23 March 2020, informing of arrangements taken the Netherlands on:
- Survey and Certification of ships flying the Dutch flag
- Joining and Repatriation of seafarers from ships
- Exemptions to the Minimum Safe Manning Document (MSMD)
- Issue or Revalidation of a Dutch Certificate of Competency (CoC) or a Certificate of Proficiency (CoP) for tankers, Polar Code or IGF
- Dutch Seaman’s Book
- Certificates of Proficiency (CoP) for ratings
- Issue of a Recognition of a Certificate of Competency where a seafarer is unable to disembark the ship
- Seafarers with expired Certificates of Proficiency (= safety training)
- Seafarers who are onboard a ship beyond their Seafarer Employment Agreement (SEA) for reasons connected to COVID-19
- Port State Control
IMO Circular Letter No.4230 dated 24 Mar 2020, informing of the flexible arrangement of Panama on:
- Crew change
- Extension of Seafarers employment Agreement
- Extension of Seafarers Certificates including Certificates of Endorsement
IMO Circular Letter No.4232 dated 24 Mar 2020, informing of similar measures implemented by:
- The Republic of Poland; and
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) posted Temporary revalidation requirements for international certificates of competency on 27 to extend seafarer certificates for up to six months on its website.
- Tokyo MoU
On the Tokyo MoU website, it issues guidance for dealing with impact of the outbreak of the COVID-19. It says:
- member Authorities of the Tokyo MOU have agreed to adopt guidance for dealing with the circumstances (such as extending periods of service onboard of seafarers, delaying periods for surveys, inspections and audits, etc.) in a pragmatic and harmonized approach.
- In accordance with the guidance, the port State Authority should request the operator concerned to confirm that flag State and/or RO, relevant seafarers organizations (if appropriate) have been involved in the process. For consideration of the request by the port State Authority, operators/companies concerned should provide a plan or process containing equivalent solutions to address the COVID-19 situation and letters of dispensation or exemption by the flag State or RO, under which the period of gracefor delaying surveys, inspections or audits should be no more than three months, in accordance with the relevant regulations of conventions.
2) Indian Ocean MoU
Indian Ocean MoU issued two circulars on 20 Mar 2020 (http://www.iomou.org/), with one dealing with issues of extending periods of crew service on board ships under MLC and the other with the requirements of the surveys, inspections and audits under SOLAS, as follows:
- Guidance for dealing with impact of the outbreak of the COVID-19 relating to MLC 2006, Circular Letter No. 1/2020, dated 20.03.2020
Considering the issue of extending periods of service on board ships and accepting that there may be a need to apply flexibility under the circumstances, requests would be considered on a case by case basis by the relevant port State:
- The port State should request the operator of the ship confirm that the flag State and relevant seafarer organisations (if applicable) have been involved in the process.
- When advising the port State of the need to extend periods on board, the operator should provide a plan or process that covers how variations to the MLC requirements would be managed.
- Guidance for dealing with impact of the outbreak of the COVID-19 relating to relevant IMO Conventions, Circular Letter No. 2/2020, dated 20.03.2020
As a general principle the following guidelines would be applied on a case by case basis by the relevant port State Authority:
- In the event that a ship has not complied with, the ship must provide evidence to the port State that the flag State has agreed to an exceptional delay specific to COVID-19. There should also be evidence that the ship has a plan that covers how the ship will be brought back into the regular survey or audit cycle.
- This pragmatic relaxation of requirements should be applied by port States on ships which have exceeded the requirements by not more than three months. Any vessel beyond the grace period of three months should be treated in the normal manner.
3) Paris MoU
The Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (Paris MoU) has developed temporary guidance for its Member Authorities during the COVID-19 crisis. The guidance recognises that there is a need to apply flexibility under these special circumstances, as stated on its webpage on 26 Mar 2020.
As reported at https://lloydslist.maritimeintelligence.informa.com/-/media/lloyds-list/daily-pdf/2020/03-march/dailypdf270320.pdf, the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), a member of Paris MoU, issued a statement confirming the indefinite suspension of PSC inspections and vessel surveys in this country, as well as its willingness to extend both vessel and seafarer certificates where necessary to keep cargo and lifeline ferry services operational.
USCG Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB No. 09-20) dated 26 Mar 2020, informs that:
“The Coast Guard will not issue deficiencies or detain vessels for expired certificates, documents or mariner credentials until October 1, 2020.”
Please refer to the 17 March 2020 Media Release of INTERCARGO titled “Coronavirus poses major challenges for seafarers on merchant ships from increasing restrictions imposed by port states” here.
On 2 Mar 2020, the IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.3 informed of the Operational considerations for managing COVID-19 cases/outbreak onboard ships, prepared by WHO.
On 5 Mar 2020, another IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.4 informed of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for ship operators for the protection of the health of seafarers, prepared by the International Chamber of Shipping in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
With countries across the globe announcing new restrictions on ship visit and crew shore leave, it becomes a complex task to get a timely update of new restrictions. To help make this easier Wilhelmsen Ships Service has produced the online “Coronavirus – Global Port Restrictions Map”. By clicking on ports or countries on the map users can view restrictions in each location.
There is another useful webpage created by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at John Hopkins, with a summary of providing location and the number of cases. It shows a live real-time, interactive map of the spread of the virus.
Many P&I Clubs collect and maintain all relevant updates of regional requirements to prevent and restrict the speed of the COVID-19 virus. Members are invited to contact the Clubs of their fleet for additional advice.
An IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.1, dated 19 Feb 2020, urges Flag State authorities, port State authorities and control regimes, companies and shipmasters to cooperate, in the current context of the outbreak, to ensure that, where appropriate, passengers can be embarked and disembarked, cargo operations can occur, ships can enter and depart shipyards for repair and survey, stores and supplies can be loaded, certificates can be issued and crews can be exchanged. The principles of avoiding unnecessary restrictions or delay on port entry to ships, persons and property on board are contained in articles I and V and section 6 of the annex to IMO’s Facilitation Convention.
References in drafting a Contingency Plan Onboard – full list of the IMO Circular Letters on Coronavirus (COVID-19):
Circular Letter No.4203 – Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), 31 Jan 2020
Circular Letter No.4203/Add.1 – Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), 13 Feb 2020
Circular Letter No.4204 – Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), 31 Jan 2020
Circular Letter No.4204/Add.1 – COVID-19 – Implementation and enforcement of relevant IMO instruments, 19 Feb 2020
Circular Letter No.4204/Add.2 – Joint Statement IMO-WHO on the Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak, 21 Feb 2020
Circular Letter No.4204/Add.3 – Operational considerations for managing COVID-19 cases/outbreak on board ships, 3 Mar 2020 (WHO Advice, 24 Feb 2020)
Circular Letter No.4204/Add.4 – ICS Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for ship operators for the protection of the health of seafarers, 6 Mar 2020
Circular Letter No.4204-Add.5 – Coronavirus (Covid-19) – Guidance Relating To The Certification Of Seafarers
Circular Letter No.4221 – the Guidance on the prevention and control of COVID-19 on board.