200,000 shipping crew stranded at sea due to coronavirus curbs

LONDON: More than a dozen countries have called for urgent action to solve a seafaring crisis that has left some 200,000 container ship crew stranded at sea due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a joint statement after a virtual summit hosted by Britain on Thursday, the countries said it was vital for global trade that the crews awaiting repatriation be allowed to move.

“The inability of ship operators worldwide to conduct ship’s crew changes is the single most pressing maritime operational challenge to the safe and efficient movement of global trade,” they said.

More than 80% of global trade is moved via the maritime transportation system, they noted.

Hundreds of thousands of seafarers have been stranded since March because operators have only been able to undertake a quarter of the usual crew changes that would have taken place.

Many crew members have not been allowed to disembark for fear of spreading the virus at various ports around the world.

As well as the 200,000 stranded at sea, a similar number of crew is estimated to be ashore waiting to replace them.

The countries called on states to recognise seafarers as “key workers” and ease paperwork for stranded crew so that they can disembark.

The statement was signed by Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, and the US.