By Yashika Torib
(as published in Manila Times, February 3, 2021)
Several manning agencies based in Manila joined an international movement to uphold the wellbeing of seafarers who were affected by the crew change crisis amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
The Neptune Declaration was signed by over 450 maritime industry and human rights leaders, including Döhle Seafront Crewing (Manila), Philippine Transmarine Carriers (PTC), and OSM Maritime.
The global pledge calls on governments and supply chain stakeholders to take swifter action on the crew change crisis and prioritize the welfare of seafarers. It places accountability and shared responsibility among industry stakeholders to resolve a deepening crisis that placed seafarers into “forced labor”.
The said initiative was led by the Global Maritime Forum.
International Transports Workers’ Federation (ITF) General Secretary Stephen Cotton welcome the move, saying that “with the rise of new variants of Covid, we are sadly seeing governments backsliding and bringing in more restrictions. Right now is the time for every CEO, every board member, of every company that relies on global shipping, to demand that governments do not forget the key workers driving their economies and unblock their borders to seafarers before this crisis gets worse.” Cotton called on charterers who have previously declared ‘no crew change’ clauses on their contracts, stating that such companies “must be held to account”.
“In this enduring time, every action counts; every effort matters, especially if it works for the wellness of seafarers and keeping our industry running,” expressed Döhle Seafront President lawyer Iris Baguilat. “While we rough out pandemic to keep our businesses afloat, it is now, more than ever, that we need to break our barriers down and walk together in unity and cooperation.”
Gerardo Borromeo, vice chairman and chief executive officer of PTC commented, “we have a unique opportunity to make a difference, coming together to resolve the humanitarian concerns of our seafarers — they are the heart and soul of a ship who enable this industry to move the world.”
The Neptune Declaration identifies four main actions to facilitate crew change and keep global supply chains functioning: Recognize seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to Covid-19 vaccines, establish and implement gold standard health protocols based on existing best practice, increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes, and ensure air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers.