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Home Maritime IMO safety committee protocols support shipping, seafarers during pandemic

IMO safety committee protocols support shipping, seafarers during pandemic

  • Protocols include practical steps for joining and leaving ships, including need for compliance and strict adherence with COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements, and measures to prevent infection on board ships
  • Protocols emphasize need for governments to designate seafarers as key workers, providing an essential service

Image by KarinKarin from Pixabay

The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the International Maritime Organization has approved a circular recognizing industry-developed protocols setting out measures designed to ensure safe ship crew changes and travel during the pandemic.

Currently, hundreds of thousands of seafarers are stranded on board ships, with contracts extended beyond the maximum duration of service periods accepted under international treaties, i.e. less than 12 months, and a similar number of seafarers are waiting to join ships.

The protocols emphasize the need for governments to designate seafarers as key workers, providing an essential service, IMO said in a statement.

The protocols, previously issued via circular letter, include practical steps for joining and leaving ships, including the need for compliance and strict adherence with COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements, and measures to prevent infection on board ships.

The move to issue crew change protocols via an official IMO circular (MSC.1/Circ.1636) was one of a number of actions taken by the Committee to support efforts by UN agencies, the maritime industry and governments to address the crew change crisis, a very serious humanitarian issue for seafarers which threatens the safety of navigation and world trade. (Read more here.)

The committee met virtually for its 102nd session from 4 to 11 November.

Up-to-date information on national focal points and on ports which facilitate crew changes will be made available on a new module in IMO’s Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS), following the agreement of the Committee.

The MSC agreed that IMO, working with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), develop a universal non-text logo or symbol that enables seafarers to identify, and consequently access, dedicated resources and processes on ship, in port and in transit to/from ships.

Such a logo will have a longer-term benefit by guiding seafarers to services which should ultimately support better safety outcomes.

The MSC agreed on a unified interpretation related to delays in delivery of ships, during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The unified interpretation of SOLAS regulation II-1/3-10 concerns the term “unforeseen delay in delivery of ships”.

IMO has issued Circular Letter No.4204/Add.1 on implementation and enforcement of relevant IMO instruments in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which calls for understanding and close cooperation among all Member States to overcome challenges related to the implementation and enforcement of IMO instruments.

Remote surveys

The Committee discussed a proposal to develop guidance on the implementation of remote surveys. The proposal recognizes that the use of remote survey is expected to continue to increase in the years ahead, even after the pandemic ends.

The Committee noted that developing such guidance would require detailed technical consideration by experts, which should also include matters related to cases of force majeure.

The Maritime Safety Committee also progressed its work on a wide range of important technical matters, including adoption of amendments and guidelines. – IMO

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