On 9 July, governmental representatives of the UK, Denmark, France, Germany, Georgia, Greece, Indonesia, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and USA held a virtual summit, alongside business leaders across the world, to discuss the issues faced by seafarers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The summit was hosted by UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, and UK Maritime Minister, Kelly Tolhurst.

The result of the summit was a commitment from the attendee governments to agree and introduce international measures to improve repatriation of seafarers and crew changes, during the global pandemic.

Following the summit, a joint statement was released highlighting, briefly, the problems faced by seafarers, the short-comings in dealing with their repatriation and general issues surrounding crew changes.  Specifically, the governments acknowledged that the inability of ship operators to conduct crew changes was the most “pressing” challenge to global trade currently.  In addition, the summit also highlighted as an issue of concern that at least 200,000 seafarers (at the time) were estimated to be in need of immediate repatriation. It stated that, seafarers’ tours of duty cannot continue to be extended and need to be kept to a duration of less than 12 months; that international protocols should be developed with the shipping industry and regulatory bodies to facilitate shipping operations and to enable seafarers to perform their role; and that if / when a second wave of COVID-19 does occur, swifter action is be required to deal with crew changes.

The solutions proposed by the summit in response to the issues discussed, included, amongst other things, encouraging all International Maritime Organisation (IMO) states to designate seafarers as “key workers’; developing internationally designated documentation to be carried by seafarers as evidence of their status as a key worker; allowing exemptions from quarantines for seafarers; considering the possibility of waiver of VISA documents; and co-operating with the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the aviation industry more generally to increase the availability of repatriation flights for seafarers.

Information on the international summit can be found on the UK government website: