Nautilus International is calling on governments and the shipping industry to look for immediate solutions for crew changes as countries begin extending the coronavirus lockdown.
More than a third of the planet's population is under some form of restriction, with the Netherlands recently extending its restrictions to the end of April and many other countries set to review lockdowns in the next few weeks.
To cope with the restrictions, particularly those which have halted crew changes, many seafarers have had their current trips extended, or been placed in quarantine before being repatriated. Due to the rapidly changing circumstances in the last two weeks, these restrictions have often been introduced with little or no notice.
Many members have contacted Nautilus for support and advice during quarantine or to highlight their extended trips.
The @SecretCapt contacted the Union saying crew are facing a worldwide suspension of any crew changes until May.
‘The worst thing is there is no light at the end of this long tunnel. We have been told the suspension of crew changes could be extended.’
Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said that discussions had been taking place among various industry organisations and agencies and he hoped that plans could be formulated to begin to deal with the impact of travel restrictions and facilitate crew changes.
'Retaining the current crew onboard and cancelling crew changes is a short-term solution to the current crisis. As the restrictions look set to continue for at least the next six weeks the time has come for decisive action. Extending tour lengths further should not be a decision taken lightly and must not be done simply because the alternatives are thought to be too difficult.
'Those crew who have had their trips extended will be increasingly frustrated and fatigued. Unless action is taken soon to allow seafarers to sign off there will inevitably be an increase in accidents,' he added.
'Where can crew changes happen? What measures need to be put in place to facilitate repatriation? Who will organise it, what will it cost and who will pay? We need answers to these questions urgently.
'Governments need to support the industry to get seafarers moving again and they need to do it now,' said Mr Dickinson.
Nautilus members who are experiencing difficulties related to the coronavirus outbreak are advised to contact their industrial organiser for assistance. In an emergency members can also contact the Nautilus 24/7 helpline.