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MAJ warns of potential seafarer shortages

(Posted on 17/02/21)

The global crew change crisis could lead to a shortage of seafarers if exhausted crew choose to leave the shipping industry rather than risk another long period trapped at sea, warns the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ).

Rear Admiral (retired) Peter Brady, MAJ Director General, advised of the potential danger to the shipping industry if there is a mass exodus of crews from their seagoing jobs to take up shore-based employment which gives them more time with their families.

“If seafarers are not available to operate the ships, those vessels will simply lay alongside idle. Does the world need that now?”, he challenged, warning that the shipping industry needs to demonstrate to world leaders the vital role crew play in the supply chain.

Condemning the global “ignorance – or is it apathy” concerning the economic value of trade by sea to the world economy, he said: “There is an absolute need to urgently inform, educate, and sensitize both business leaders and consumers across the world as to the important role shipping plays in delivering 90% of global trade.

“Then we must emphasize the stark fact that those ships are staffed by persons who need to be rotated promptly at the end of their contracted shift at sea and returned to their homes and families for the sake of their mental and physical health. Doing this is essential for the safe operation of ships, thereby protecting livs and the environment as well.”

He advised that now is the time to speak to a wider audience: "I believe we need to now take the conversation to another level, to speak with the merchants, to speak with the financiers, the bankers, all the people who control the financial aspect of global trade.”

With many countries focused on protecting their populations from the Covid-19 pandemic, borders have been closed and travel restrictions put in place. These have severely impacted the ability of ship operators to carry out crew changes when seafarers have reached the end of their contracted time at sea. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has urged nations to classify seafarers as “essential workers” in order to facilitate their smooth transit on shore, but so far only about 55 countries have done this.

Admiral Brady, who chaired the IMO’s Standard of Training and Watchkeeping (STW) Sub-committee - now Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW) Sub-committee – for ten years, and is  currently Jamaica’s chief technical delegate to the IMO, believes shipping industry leaders and legislators should come together to discuss the situation before crisis point is reached. He said: “It seems that it is time for another global summit to include the United Nations, it’s relevant agencies such as the IMO, International Labour Organization, industry bodies such as the International Chamber of Shipping, and even the International Civil Aviation 

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