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UK government and UN commit to protect seafarers and help stabilise global shipping market

3 Jul 2020

UK will hold first summit to address the impact of coronavirus on shipping crew changes.

  • UK to hold first international summit to address impact of COVID-19 on crew changes
  • government will call on the international community to come together to ensure swift repatriation
  • estimated 200,000 seafarers due to change over, with concerns around the impact on wellbeing

Marking the International Day of the Seafarer, the UK government has today (25 June 2020) announced it will host the first international summit on the impact of COVID-19 on crew changes next month, bringing together UN, political and business leaders from across the globe.


Led by UK Maritime Minister Kelly Tolhurst, the event will take place virtually and will be an opportunity to reflect on the impact of the pandemic on the global shipping industry, and what governments and industry must do to protect the welfare of crew workers around the world.


In a special address, Kitack Lim, the UN Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), is expected to highlight the humanitarian need to safeguard workers across the seas and states’ duties to repatriate workers swiftly.


Due to the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on countries around the globe, with many shutting down borders, it is now estimated there are more than 1.2 million seafarers at sea at any one time and currently 200,000 seafarers due to change over, including up to 2,000 from the UK.


Many crews have had their contracts extended but this is not a long-term solution, with many seafarers on board a ship for months despite having had no contact with coronavirus and posing no risk.


To ensure their swift repatriation, and to safeguard workers’ mental health, the Maritime Minister wrote to the IMO, the International Labour Organisation and the World Health Organisation at the start of the outbreak on 23 March pressing that all states follow the UK’s work in repatriating workers regardless of their nationality or employment.


The UK has remained open for seafarers to come and either stay on vessels, go ashore, take shore leave or be repatriated, abiding by Public Health England requirements and social distancing.