In a move that vindicates an earlier statement issued by the twenty-two unions affiliated to the Nautilus Federation, the International Federation of Shipmasters' Associations (IFSMA) has taken the unusual step of issuing a direct Notice to all Shipmasters calling on them to 'protect themselves and their crew against fatigue' and reminding them of their duty and responsibility to report to shipowners any complaints of breaches of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).
The IFSMA notice also highlights that under both Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) and the International Safety Management Code (ISM), shipmasters have an obligation to report significant safety issues to the shipowners 'designated person ashore' and the flag state authorities of the vessel and that in order to avoid potential criminalisation they should 'refuse to sail on entry into your next port' if your complaints have not been resolved.
Backing the earlier Nautilus warning, IFSMA is highlighting the potential for ships' officers to face criminalisation for maritime accidents brought about by fatigued and mentally impaired seafarers caused by long hours of work and prolonged tours of duty due to the crew change crisis. 'If a maritime incident takes place in which tiredness and the mental health of officers and crew are found to have undermined the safe operation of the ship, this is a real concern,' IFSMA warned.
On Friday 5 June speaking on behalf of the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), Nautilus General Secretary Mark Dickinson warned that the excuse of force majeure – unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract – to deny crew changes is 'no longer appropriate'.
'Governments need to facilitate safe crew changes and do it now. There are some 400,000 seafarers stranded, either at sea or on shore waiting to re-join, by the travel restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the seafarers have been at sea for up to 15 months and many are well past their contractual obligations,' said Mr Dickinson.
'The International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have backed the industry protocols developed to enable crew changes to be undertaken safely. As such the conditions for force majeure no longer exist. Continuing to accept this is providing governments with an excuse and risks seafarers becoming collateral damage in the fight against the virus.
'As proud affiliates of IFSMA and the ITF, Nautilus welcomes their efforts to get crew changes moving and is ready to work with anyone seeking to get our members home or back to work. We stand with IFSMA and the ITF in reminding the industry of our determination to defend the interests of our members.'
Nautilus FAQs on Covid-19 Coronavirus
Union calls time on governments using 'force majeure' to mask failures in pandemic response
National governments can no longer hide behind a declaration of 'force majeure' in order to mask failures in their pandemic response which have resulted in thousands of seafarers being stuck at sea well beyond their contractual obligations.
Shipmasters join urgent calls for crew changes
Shipmasters caught up in the Covid-19 pandemic have made an urgent call to governments for crew changes to be allowed.
Unions back ships' officers as governments drag feet over crew changes
An influential grouping of maritime trade unions has publicly raised concerns about unsafe ship operations due to the tiredness and mental health of seafarers caused by extended tours of duty during the Covid-19 pandemic.
No mandatory quarantine for seafarers in Britain
Seafarers will be exempted from planned travel restrictions that could include a mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors and residents returning to the UK.
Covid-19 leaves maritime sector vulnerable to cyber attacks
The maritime and offshore sectors are coming under considerable pressure from cyber criminals since the outbreak of coronavirus with a 400% increase in attempted hacks since February 2020, according to cyber security specialist Naval Dome.
Face covering to be mandatory on UK ferries from 15 June
Face covering will be made mandatory on UK ferries in England from 15 June, Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said.
International maritime airline and labour agencies wade in for crew change action
Three international maritime, labour and airline agencies have added further pressure on governments to urgently follow recommended global crew change protocols.
Unions reach agreement with Singapore on pandemic crew relief
Seafarers stuck onboard in Singapore due to the Covid-19 pandemic have been given hope of relief, thanks to new official crew change guidelines agreed with Nautilus Federation unions.
Seafarers' denied access to medical care a global health emergency
Seafarers denied access to medical care at ports due to pandemic restrictions is putting lives at risk and has become a global health emergency, Nautilus International general secretary general Mark Dickinson told a webinar organised by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).
International union pressure is getting results in crew change crisis, says Nautilus general secretary
Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson renewed the Union's commitment to international cooperation in an online industry event today – stressing that joint working between unions, employers and governments is key to achieving crew relief and repatriation during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Master Mariners speak out about Covid-19 concerns
Union pledges to defend seafarers' jobs now and in the future
UN must persuade governments to adopt crew changes or face disaster, global maritime leaders warn
With over 200,000 tired, mentally stretched seafarers stuck on ships across the globe, the international maritime industry is calling on United Nations Secretary General António Guterres to persuade the 193 UN member states to immediately implement the 12-step crew change protocols developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Urgent action needed over EU Schengen visas for crew changes
The European Commission and EU Member States must take urgent action to ensure seafarers are admitted into the EU Schengen territory for the purpose of joining their ships or to be repatriated, the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) and European Communities of Shipping Associations (ECSA) said.