International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Secretary-General Kitack Lim has denounced “no crew change” clauses in charterparties, claiming that such clauses exacerbate the dire situation of stranded seafarers and undermine efforts to resolve the ongoing crew change crisis.
So-called “no crew change” clauses, which are demanded by certain charterers, state that no crew changes can occur whilst the charterer’s cargo is onboard.
This means that the ship is not allowed to deviate to ports where crew changes can take place, representing a development that the IMO’s Seafarer Crisis Action Team (SCAT) has become aware of in recent weeks.
As the crew change crisis enters its tenth month, hundreds of thousands of seafarers remain onboard ships well beyond the expiration of their seafarer employment agreements, some not being paid and all unable to be repatriated.
A similar number remain unable to join ships, and therefore find themselves unable to begin their contracts and earn a living.
In a statement supported by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Lim called upon all charterers to refrain from requesting to include “no crew change” clauses in charterparties, and further called upon shipowners and operators to reject them if they are demanded.
He stated: “Such clauses exacerbate the mental and physical fatigue among exhausted seafarers, undermine compliance with the provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, as amended (MLC, 2006) and further threaten the safety of navigation.
“Resolving the crew change crisis requires the best efforts of all stakeholders. The elimination of the use of “no crew change” clauses is just one of those efforts.”
Lim noted that alternative contractual clauses that do allow for crew changes during the pandemic are available and should be utilised.
He added: “The situation continues to constitute a humanitarian crisis that threatens not only seafarers’ health and wellbeing but also the safety of navigation and the uninterrupted flow of the global supply chain.
“Policies or practices that prevent or inhibit safe, regular crew changes should be revised or eliminated.”
As many as 46 IMO member states and one associate member have designed seafarers as key workers, as of December 18.
The UN’s specialist shipping regulator deems it as essential to exempt seafarers from specific COVID-related travel restrictions, allowing them to travel between their country of residence and ships, and to be repatriated at the end of their contracts.
It pointed out that there have been positive signs in the application of the industry-developed framework of protocols for ensuring safe crew changes and travel during the pandemic, which were endorsed by the Maritime Safety Committee.