Shipping’s leaders say shadowy status is fuelling crew crisis
By : Richard Clayton, Lloyd’s List
MARITIME leaders have expressed their frustration with national governments, accusing politicians of creating a humanitarian crisis due to a failure to meet their obligations on seafarer repatriation.
Speaking on an International Chamber of Shipping webinar, Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, head of Maritime at DNV GL, conveyed his disappointment at politicians and their “lack of accountability”.ICS secretary-general Guy Platten compared the experience of trying to move politicians on the issue to “banging your head against a wall”. Guy Ryder, director-general of the International Labour Organization, said he recognised how closely shipping representatives had been working together but lamented their lack of progress. He believed the complexity of the situation within governments had got in the way of a resolution to the crewing crisis. “Maritime ministries understand but other [ministries] do not.” The problem, said Gerardo Borromeo, chief executive of Philippine Transmarine Carriers, was that the crewing crisis was global but had come up against local considerations. “Seafarers are normally considered heroes [in the Philippines]; now seen as pandemic carriers.” However, Hugo de Stoop, head of the tanker operator Euronav, saw a different cause. “At the heart of the problem is the way we have built this industry in the past. We have tried to live in the shadows, tried to be discreet, tried to be forgotten. Nobody wanted to pay tax, nobody wanted to be heavily regulated. We have chosen tiny jurisdictions like Panama, Bahamas, Marshall Islands. “What influence do they have on a worldwide problem? None,” he said. In Mr de Stoop’s view, the unprecedented level of co-operation among shipping organisations since the outbreak of Covid-19 had been a reaction to the crisis. In reality, shipping remains as fragmented as ever. “Only the big players have come forward to solve the crisis. That does not represent a lot of people. We need to bring small players in the same direction.” Many family companies have stayed in the background, he said. The result is that people only hear bad things about shipping – such as an oil spill in Mauritius or a cruise ship sinking in Italy. To correct this perception, we need to be willing to talk about the industry much more than we have done in the past. Not just because there is a crisis.” The panel agreed on the urgency to underline the designation of seafarers as key workers, and to allow them to move around the world safely and securely. “People see seafarers disembarking from a ship as a threat,” said Mr de Stoop, “but they have been in quarantine for more than 15 days, so they are clean of any virus. The problem is only those seafarers embarking not disembarking.” The lesson to be taken away is that the industry must prepare for the next black swan event. “We can’t wait for the next 99-year event,” said Mr Borromeo. “We must use the technology, review the processes, and think now about other potential disasters.” Mr Ryder concluded that it was clear both the shipowners and seafarers wanted to tackle the crew change issue and have worked alongside one another. But governments have not responded. “They [governments] will divest themselves of international obligations for reasons of popular opinion. We should apply a little bit of heat to non-responsive governments,” he said. “We should form coalitions of the willing: get together those governments that are willing to meet international obligations.” Source : Lloydslist