Charterers' are aggravating the ongoing crew change crisis and further threatening the safety of navigation with their 'no crew change' clauses, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) secretary-general Kitack Lim said.
Mr Lim said 'no crew change' clauses in charterparties exacerbate the dire situation of stranded seafarers and undermine the efforts undertaken to resolve the crew change crisis which is entering its 10th month.
These clauses, which are demanded by certain charterers, state that no crew changes can occur while the charterer's cargo is onboard – meaning ships are not allowed to deviate to ports where crew changes could take place.
IMO Seafarer Crisis Action Team (SCAT) has also been made aware of this worrying development in recent weeks. In November dry bulk operators' association INTERCARGO also reportedly slammed some charterers in the dry bulk sector for preventing crew changes from taking place during the period of the charter, despite the shipowner agreeing to accept the associated costs.
In a strong statement issued on 18 December, and supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO), Mr Lim called upon all charterers to refrain from requesting 'no crew change' clauses in charterparties, and called upon shipowners and operators to reject them.
'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,' Mr Lim said. He added that alternative contractual clauses - that do allow for crew changes during the pandemic - are available and should be used.
'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,' Mr Lim said.
'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,' Mr Lim insisted, adding: 'policies or practices that prevent or inhibit safe, regular crew changes should be revised or eliminated',
As of 18 December, 46 IMO Member States and one Associate Member had designated seafarers as key workers .