IMO secretary-general denounces ‘no crew change’ clauses

IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim has spoken out against ‘no crew change’ clauses in charterparties, pointing out that such clauses exacerbate the dire situation of stranded seafarers and undermine the efforts undertaken to resolve the ongoing crew change crisis.

So-called ‘no crew change’ clauses, which are demanded by certain charterers, state that no crew changes can occur whilst the charterer’s cargo is onboard – hence not allowing the ship to deviate to ports where crew changes could take place. IMO’s Seafarer Crisis Action Team (SCAT) has been made aware of this worrying development in recent weeks.

In a strong statement issued on 18 December, supported by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Lim calls upon all charterers to refrain from requesting to include ‘no crew change’ clauses in charterparties, and asks that shipowners and operators reject them if they are demanded.

“Such clauses exacerbate the mental and physical fatigue among exhausted seafarers, undermine compliance with the provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, as amended (MLC, 2006) and further threaten the safety of navigation.” Lim says. “Alternative contractual clauses that allow for crew changes during the pandemic are available and should be utilised.”

“Resolving the crew change crisis requires the best efforts of all stakeholders. The elimination of the use of ‘no crew change’ clauses is just one of those efforts,” he says. 

As the crew change crisis now enters its tenth month, hundreds of thousands of seafarers remain onboard ships well beyond the expiration of their seafarer employment agreements, some not being paid and all unable to be repatriated. A similar number remain unable to join ships, and as a result find themselves unable to begin their contracts and earn a living.

“The situation continues to constitute a humanitarian crisis that threatens not only seafarers’ health and wellbeing but also the safety of navigation and the uninterrupted flow of the global supply chain” says Lim. “Policies or practices that prevent or inhibit safe, regular crew changes should be revised or eliminated.”

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