Better shipping crew changes 'will cut supply chain risk'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
26 January 2021

Changing protocols to enable improved shipping crew changes will reduce the risk of disrupted supply chains, according to a declaration signed by hundreds of companies.

The Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change calls on peers, stakeholders and governments to recognise seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to Covid vaccines.

The UN estimates 400,000 are stranded on ships around the world due to coronavirus restrictions, with another 400,000 stuck at home unable to join ships.

The declaration – signed by firms including Maersk, Unilever, mining company Vale, and Shell – said this was “not an acceptable way to treat seafarers, who are the frontline workers of the maritime industry carrying 90% of global trade”.

However, while reducing risk, the declaration did say improving crew changeovers would lead to higher costs.

“Implementing high-quality crew change protocols will reduce the economic risk of disrupted supply chains but will lead to increased short-term costs,” it said.

The declaration went on: “Governments and other stakeholders should work together with the maritime industry to ensure that seafarers, irrespective of their nationality, get priority access to Covid-19 vaccines alongside other key workers and health care professionals in recognition of their critical role in global supply chains and trade.”

Ian Wright, chief executive at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), told SM the organisation “remained concerned about the impact of Covid on the availability of seafarers and shipping might seriously impact food supply”.

“We reiterate our call for governments and international agencies to provide practical support to seafarers to play their vital role in global food supply.”

The UK Chamber of Shipping described the declaration as an “important intervention”, tweeting: “We still have hundreds of thousands of seafarers stuck at sea. The situation is completely unacceptable and there is a humanitarian crisis unfolding.”

In September last year the FDF and the International Transport Workers’ Federation warned supplies of food and medicines were at risk of disruption from the situation.

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