Recent Posts

Social media

International Forwarding Association Blog » Sea freight in Europe » UN Urges States to Support Marine Crews

UN Urges States to Support Marine Crews

Four UN organizations recently released a joined statement urging carriers, governments, local and national authorities, and other stakeholders to ramp up efforts to deal with the crew change crisis that has affected over 400,000 mariners since the onset of the pandemic. The statement issued by WHO, UNSTAD, IMO, and ILO notes that more efforts are needed to protect crew safety and health and minimize the risk of supply chain disruptions. The four organizations also stress on the fact that due to increased vaccination rates among crews and the gradual easing of travel restrictions, the situation shows signs of improvement.


The Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator, which collects data from major shipping companies, shows that the share of mariners stranded onboard ships beyond contract expiration was 3.7 percent in December, 2021, down from 9 percent in July, 2021. At the same time, the percentage increased to 4.2 percent in the beginning of 2021 when the new Covid-19 variant spread, with many countries reimposing travel restrictions. It has been mainly crews from developing countries that have been affected by the travel bans.

The UN statement was released amidst the wake of the new Covid-19 variant which forced countries to curtail seafarers’ movement, close borders, and require additional paperwork and vaccinations. These measures resulted in many mariners lacking access to medical services.

Implications for Global Trade

More than 80 percent of cargo is shipped by sea. During the past 2 years, some 1.9 million crews have been involved in shipping critical supplies such as vaccines, medical equipment, and food. Yet, the restrictions imposed to limit spread resulted in hundreds of thousands of mariners not being able to leave ships. Other crews were unable to board ships, resulting in financial hardship and loss of income for many. Seafarers onboard ships had faced increased stress and other challenges such as shortages of personal protective equipment and tests which could minimize safety risks.

UN’s Response

Recently UNSTAD released a policy brief that highlighted the importance of improved international cooperation to ensure mariner safety. The brief underscores the fact that efforts to safeguard the safety, health, and rights of seafarers will have a positive impact on global trade and the economies of mariners’ home countries.

The four UN organizations also called on governments and employers to protect the wellbeing of marine crews. An important measure in this direction is to ensure that mariners have access to medical services and to promptly organize their medical evacuation when needed. Also, as part of humanitarian logistics, allocation of vaccines should ensure that seafarers’ vaccination is prioritized to safeguard their health.

According to major industry bodies, the marine sector is faced with significant challenges that require cooperation between maritime service providers, industry associations, shipping operators, labor supply countries, and port and flag states. In line with this, the UN urged for a proactive, joint approach to protect local communities, ensure sustainable development, and minimize adverse consequences for mariners and their families.