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Panama requests mediation from the International Maritime Organization (IMO)

The Republic of Panama, the first registry of ships with more than 8 thousand 500 flagged vessels that exceed 230 million GRT (gross registered tons), representing approximately 16% of the world maritime fleet and with approximately 318 thousand seafarers on board, requested the collaboration of the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Kitack Lim, to mediate and assist seafarers and shipowners regarding a crisis involving ships in the Far East.

This situation affects some 74 vessels and more than 1,500 crew members of various nationalities who are confined in their vessels in ports and waters of the People’s Republic of China. These vessels are fully loaded with imported coal from Australia.

The facts have been disclosed by different media and although the shipowners have sent requests to the governments of the People’s Republic of China and Australia, the condition has not changed.

“Our mission in this regard is to find a reasonable and positive solution for the crew of these ships to return home. Let us remember that on September 21, 2020, the IMO Maritime Safety Committee adopted Resolution MSC.473 (ES.2) on recommended measures to facilitate changes in ship crews, access to medical care and travel. of seafarers during the COVID-19 pandemic and the protocols developed by the industry to ensure crew changes and safe travel during the pandemic set out in MSC.1 / Circ.1636”, added the Minister of Maritime Affairs, Arch. Noriel Araúz in his letter.

He added that the IMO’s diplomatic powers “can help us expose before the competent authorities that due to a commercial disagreement, the human rights and well-being of the crews of these ships are being ignored.”

In a commercial dispute or disagreement, the crews should not be involved, nor should their disembarkation be prevented, especially if their employment contract has expired or they are on board against their will, taking into consideration that said crew member has worked uninterruptedly, as he has. systematically considered the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR), indicating that from the combined reading of standard A2.4, paragraphs 2 and 3, on annual leave; and Standard A2.5.1, paragraph 2, b), on repatriation, of the Maritime Labour Convention (2006), as amended, from which it follows that the maximum duration of the continuous period of service on board a vessel without vacation is, in principle, eleven (11) months.

Additionally, under no circumstances shall the Member States of the Maritime Labour Convention (2006), as amended, deny the right of repatriation to any seafarer, due to the financial circumstances of the shipowners or the incapacity or unwillingness to these to replace a seafarer, in accordance with the provisions of Standard A2.5.1.8 “Repatriation” of the aforementioned Agreement.

In addition, it is understood that it does not depend on the Flag States whether or not to allow the disembarkation of the crew when the ship is in jurisdictional waters or ports of another country. In this regard, we reiterate that our main objective is that the well-being of the seafarers be taken into consideration and as a Flag State, we trust that, when this note is in the hands of the IMO, we can find a solution to this crisis the good of the seafarers, considered “Key Workers”.

Minister Araúz reaffirmed the commitment of the Panama Maritime Authority to work jointly with the IMO, strengthening and promoting cooperation mechanisms that allow the maritime industry and its related activities to continue to be a fundamental pillar in social and development sustainable economic worldwide.
Source: Panama Maritime Authority

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