When the UK Government announced to the world that they were setting up a conference to deal with the International Crisis and Humane Scandal of the huge numbers of seafarers languishing on board ships, of all types, sizes and flags because they were not allowed to disembark at the end of their contract period due to the CoronaVirus complications; I could foretell what would be achieved even before a word was spoken; which, of course, was absolutely nothing!
Nothing was achieved because there was no pressure to make shipping companies act; the IMO’s call for strike action fell on thousands of deaf ears, because any one ship can be picked off, silenced and calmed by threats of ‘blacklisting’ from any further ship employment; especially if the targeted seafarers are in any way vocal.
There were some attempts to set up a orderly crew-change system, but these swiftly fell apart when shipping companies tried to shortcut the procedures: and, mainly because of the vast numbers of ‘F.O.C.’, also known as Flags of Convenience ships, registered with Nations who register whatever comes their way, for tax-dodging purposes, who otherwise have little concern for the people who man those ships.
But there are a few people, and a few companies, able, alert people who make their living from ships; who also have a deep and abiding respect for the men and women who crew the ships; and they have the power to stop shipping dead in the oceans. Yes, the International Protection and Indemnity Group, a band of companies which collectively insure 90% of the world’s shipping can, if they wish, get Nations and Shipping Companies to sort the crew change mess out, by stating, calmly and sincerely, that unless all crew members are sent back home, and I do mean ‘home’; with new crew members legally on board: no ship would be able to sail, because the INSURANCE would not be valid.
I didn’t think of this, Andrew Craig Bennett of ‘Splash’ wrote of it first. He makes a good case, and the idea has history behind it. The pressure which this group could raise is immense; there isn’t a shipping company around which would defy an edict from the GROUP which would deny them ‘Indemnity’ if they tried to loose the moorings without an all-clear from the insurers!
So, whether you have history in shipping, or even if you have never been near a ship in your life; why not sit down and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and help make a little bit of history yourself.
Simply ask the Group to demand that Governments, ship companies and all concerned accept that safety is being affected, and that unless all nations permit seamen to come ashore, to stay in hotels, to travel to and through airports, all socially distanced and wearing masks of course, P&I cover, for ships at sea after a given date – we have to be realistic – say three months from now – will continue until they reach port or other places of safety, but that cover for each and every ship which has on board a seafarer who has been on board for longer than the term agreed under his or her original contract – yes, we all know that people are being cajoled and forced to sign new ones – will stop, other than for crew matters, as soon as that ship starts to work cargo or passengers, and cover will remain suspended until all replacements have joined the ship, all regular hand overs (socially distanced, after quarantine) have been completed and the leaving crew members are safely home.
No excuses, no ‘It’ll be alright; just give us a bit of time’: no leeway!
No compliance = No Insurance; No Indemnity!
Enough emails; enough pressure ,and who knows, the crew catastrophe might just be solved!