Oil giants Shell and BP, the maker of Castrol industrial lubricants, have joined with over 300 other global companies and organisations to tackle a humanitarian crisis caused by seafarers and offshore workers becoming stranded at sea due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), at the end of last year, more than 400,000 seafarers were still stranded at sea after their initial contracts had expired, with border closures, strict entry requirements and lapsed work permits and visas frustrating their repatriation. In addition, a similar number of seafarers are stuck at home, unable to relieve the stranded crews or earn a living.
Spending long periods of time at sea can have negative consequences for the physical and mental wellbeing of seafarers and offshore workers. This can in turn impact safety, possibly leading to environmental disasters and maritime incidents.
The Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing & Crew Change is calling for a resolution to this crisis. By signing it, companies recognise their responsibility to play their part in addressing the situation. The declaration states:
“Facilitating crew changes based on high-quality health protocols is a shared responsibility which will create benefits for all by minimising the risk of Covid-19 spread on vessels, minimising the risk of disruptions to global supply chains, while contributing to maritime safety and the wellbeing of seafarers.”
It also calls for seafarers to be given the status of key workers, given that they are responsible for the vast majority of global trade, and that they should be allowed priority access to vaccines.