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Letter from the UK Shipping Minister to IMO, ILO and WHO

The Shipping Minister (Kelly Tolhurst MP) has sent the attached letter to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the International Labour (ILO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) which stresses the UK commitment to the welfare of seafarers of all nationalities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter also stresses its assurances that the UK will continue to recognise its commitments under the international conventions regarding the transit and transfer of seafarers and their right to access shore leave.

The letter states the following key commitments:

  • The UK states that it will ensure that freight is able to flow inwards and outwards of the country, and that global trade continues for the benefit of all citizens and the global economy. To this the end the UK has committed to keeping UK ports open and that it does not propose to restrict the transit or transfer of seafarers through the UK or to restrict access to shore leave. It will ensure that seafarers and those at the ports are protected and have in place robust measures to ensure the safety of all persons.
  • The UK whilst respecting the right of states to close borders asks that they consider the facilitation of the transit and transfer of seafarers wherever possible. As it is critical to the health and welfare of every state and to their own and the global economies that supply chains remain open and collectively countries do not restrict the movement of vessels and seafarers. 
  • The UK asks that states allow vessels to change crew to ensure the health and welfare of individuals and for the safety of the vessel, and states show compassion when there are sick on board and to not turn away vessels, their crew or their passengers.
  • The UK will endeavour to provide appropriate treatment for any seafarer should they become ill. They also recognise that seafarers will be concerned about family and loved ones back home and will facilitate access to shore leave or to transit home.
  • The UK recognises that that seafarers may be wary of accessing shore and prefer to stay on board. This is to be respected and where possible, access to communication facilities should be provided to allow contact with home or to seek welfare or spiritual guidance.

The Minister ends the letter by asking the IMO, ILO and WHO for clear joint international guidance and direction to port States, flag States and coastal States supporting seafarers and ship operators.

The Chamber is extremely pleased to have received this letter and fully supports this approach from the UK Government which is very much in line with the Chamber's position in terms of the facilitation of seafarer movement in order to keep supply lines functioning.