UK issues guidance on crew change crisis

Source: Maritime and Coastguard Agency UK.
Source: Maritime and Coastguard Agency UK.

The UK government has issued a Marine Information Note to the domestic maritime sector addressing the crew change crisis and seafarers’ wellbeing.

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By Michael McGrady, Maritime Direct Americas & Pacific Correspondent

LONDON — The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) for the government’s Department of Transport has announced the release of Marine Information Note (MIN) 656 discussing the “potentially long-lasting and far-reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on seafarer wellbeing.”

According to an MCA statement, MIN 656 is intended to guide shipowners unsure of how to address the ongoing crew change crisis. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching consequences, including mental health and wellbeing impacts,” notes MIN 656. “As those in the maritime industry will know, these effects have been felt especially hard by seafarers, and it is expected that this will have long-term impacts on crews. Whilst the full impacts are yet to be seen, social research can provide early indications.”

MIN 656 also notes the conditions of the pandemic and international government responses to closing borders and restricting movement due to the virus’s spread. The agency also notes that seafarers that are stranded need to be repatriated as soon as possible, or there will be a persistent case of far more damaging issues to the sector.

“Extended periods onboard can exacerbate poor mental wellbeing, increase fatigue, lead to a culture of complacency, and increase interpersonal tensions,” notes MIN 656. Where exemptions have been made to contract length requirements, the master and all seafarers should monitor and be alert for signs of lapses in safe [behavior], increased fatigue, and decreased wellbeing and report any concerns to the master or the safety committee.”

“I am deeply concerned about how the global crisis has affected workers across maritime transport,” says Maritime Minister Robert Courts, reports Hellenic Shipping News. “This new guidance from the MCA is another way the UK is challenging the sector to take action to ensure all seafarers are properly supported during this time.”

Kate Ware, the director of UK Maritime Services, added a similar note on the instance of MIN 656’s release.

“Without seafarers, nothing moves in the world, and we’ve led the way in our obligation to look after them – we’ll continue to do exactly that,” Ware said, via the same report from Hellenic Shipping News online. 

“The UK was the first to designate seafarers as key workers, and we were the first to do mass repatriations, facilitated through our colleagues at the [department],” she said.

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