New quarantine program aims to tackle shipping industry

The shipping industry is establishing its own approved international network of quarantine facilities to ensure safe crew changes, as the Omicron variant prompts governments to close their borders to sailors having to leave and join ships.

The Crew Enhanced Quarantine International Program (#CrewEQUIP) is a partnership between the International Council of Maritime Employers (IMEC); the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS); and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), which collectively represent over 80% of the global merchant fleet and nearly one million international seafarers through nearly 200 affiliated unions.

#CrewEQUIP will create a list of trusted hotels available for crew quarantines which are independently reviewed. The program is designed to overcome frequent changes in government border policies affecting international crews by implementing the highest standards and best industry protocols, ensuring that the program will continue to bring crew aboard. ships safely, even as governments increase their quarantine requirements.

The groups said the program was urgently needed to prevent the shipping industry from returning to the worst extremes of the crew change crisis, which has seen 400,000 stranded sailors working aboard ships beyond of their initial contracts at the end of 2020, with an equivalent number unable to join ships and earn income.

The President of the International Council of Maritime Employers (IMEC), Captain Belal Ahmed, said: “Seafarers have been and continue to be severely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. While the world has been confined on several occasions, sailors have worked tirelessly to keep international trade moving and, ultimately, to ensure that the world’s people stay nourished and warm. Yet despite the important work seafarers undertake, many governments have made moving these key workers on and off ships far from easy. “

“This new program of quarantine facilities will give the industry more confidence to support the movement of more seafarers more regularly around the world knowing that there is a considerably lower risk of the introduction of Covid- 19 in a ship if a Sailor has joined via a CrewEquip Approved Facility, where the highest standards will prevail.

ITF Seafarer Section President David Heindel said: “A successful crew change needs everything to line up with port states, transit countries and the right facilities available. in the country of origin of the seafarers involved. Currently, even seemingly minor changes in government border, health or quarantine policies can put an end to a planned crew change – often leaving a sailor with no choice but to continue working on board beyond his initial contract. Too many sailors will miss Christmas and other important events in the weeks to come.

“In-depth programs like CrewEQUIP, Unions and Industry provide a robust system that reduces at least one of the factors that risk successful crew changes. This is an important initiative and we encourage all responsible shipowners and employers to join in.

Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping, said: “#CrewEquip will facilitate the quarantine process for seafarers and shipowners and ensure high standards are met. “

“However, world leaders urgently need to deliver a long-term solution to ensure that seafarers are no longer unduly affected by the ever-changing travel and quarantine restrictions. The reinstatement of strict travel rules by governments in instinctive response to the Omicron variant is of great concern. Coordinated action must be taken by world leaders to exempt transport workers from travel restrictions and prioritize them for vaccinations and recalls. We don’t want to see a return to the peak of the crew change crisis. “

While a permanent global system with a digital vaccine and testing recognition is still urgently needed, the groups said #CrewEQUIP would be important to have in place in the meantime to support higher levels of change. ‘crew. The groups welcomed the announcement this week of a new joint WHO-ILO-industry action group to advance digital “yellow cards” for seafarers and other workers who have to cross borders for their work.

Under the #CrewEQUIP program, shipping companies and their representatives, such as crew officers and ship managers, can sponsor pre-board quarantine facilities for seafarers to be considered for reconnaissance. Facilities must meet #CrewEQUIP’s strict standards for hygiene, test integrity and data security.

A facility must also pass inspections by Lloyd’s Register, the program’s recognized external auditor, to become and remain a recognized #CrewEQUIP supplier.

From December 16, shipowners, shipping companies and their representatives will be able to access the online reservation portal to designate pre-embarkation quarantine facilities.

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