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Help operators to carry out crew changes, governments are urged | Shipping Australia

Global transport bodies have called on governments to urgently help the changeover of on-signing and off-signing crews on commercial cargo vessels.

The International Air Transport Association and the International Chamber of Shipping noted that about 100,000 seafarers need to be changed over from cargo vessels each month. They add that official COVID-19 restrictions have made flights unavailable, which is “unsustainable” for the safe operation of maritime trade.

“Airlines have been required to cut passenger services in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19. But if Governments identify airports that seafarers can use for crew changes and make appropriate adjustments to current health and immigration protocols, airlines can help keep global logistics moving,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

Cargo crew accidentally caught up in control measures

The two bodies also note that both aviation and maritime cargo shipping companies face “common challenges” in moving crew while complying with immigration and quarantine restrictions. Cargo crew are accidentally caught by restrictions to control the movements of non-essential personnel which jeopardizes the continued operation of global supply chains.

Australia’s situation

Recognising the difficulties, Australia’s National Cabinet agreed on 14 April to a consistent set of uniform rules to ease the movement of commercial cargo crews. These rules do not apply to cruise ships.

Under the national uniform rules, a relief crew can fly into the country and go directly to a vessel where they can isolate away from the Australian community until it is time to sail.

Going its own way

Unfortunately, Western Australia is already going its own way. The state has decided to retain its current direction that crew will have to spend 14-days in quarantine before joining a cargo vessel.

A 14-day quarantine rule can have severe financial and operational burdens on shipping companies. Delays can also adversely affect certain kinds of cargo, such as liquefied natural gas.

Shipping Australia CEO Rod Nairn commented, “We support the calls from the ICS and the IATA. It is certainly good to see Australia’s National Cabinet last Thursday agreeing to adopt a uniform set of rules that allow crew changes, allow ships to berth and be worked upon on arrival without an unnecessary 14-day delay that has previously been adopted in some States and ports.

“It is now very important that the States follow through and make the changes that their Premiers have agreed to at National Cabinet. It’s been a week so far and we haven’t seen much action on this.

“Recent advice that Western Australia has decided not to exempt interstate or international crew arrivals from a mandatory 14-day isolation period before joining their ship is very worrying and certainly not in the spirit of the National Cabinet agreement. This is exactly the problem highlighted by the ICS and IATA,” Nairn concluded.

Shipping Australia urges all state and territory governments to abide by the spirit of the National Cabinet agreement, to align their maritime crew exemptions to facilitate crew changes and to accept all ships into port on arrival. These changes are necessary to ensure crew welfare and to keep our vital maritime freight moving.
Source: Shipping Australia

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