These emotional words are found in a letter dated June 3rd of 2020, addressed from the General Secretariat of this Organism to the Office of the Minister of Maritime Affairs and Administrator of the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP).
The Secretary General added that in these difficult times, the availability of the maritime industry and the ability of seafarers to deliver vital goods, including medical supplies and food, is essential to respond to and eventually overcome this pandemic, therefore it is of utmost importance that the flow of trade by sea is not interrupted unnecessarily.
I wish to commend Panama's efforts to facilitate crew changes, in particular, I am grateful for the joint statement issued by Panama and Liberia on this matter and for supporting IMO Circular Letter No. 4204 / Add.14 for the "Recommended framework of protocols that guarantee safe changes in the ship's crew and travel during the COVID-19 pandemic."
The pandemic produced by COVID-19 has presented enormous challenges to the world. The media recognizes the heroic efforts made by doctors, nurses, first responders and key personnel in the face of this crisis. Less well-known is the memorable work done by seafarers around the world, many of whom have been working under tremendous physical and mental strain to keep the global supply chain from stopping in order for food, valuable medical supplies and other products to reach its destination.
Thousands of seafarers have involuntarily extended their contracts, some have been working at sea for almost fifteen (15) months without rest. This represents a potential threat to the safety of navigation and the protection of the marine environment, since fatigue is one of the most important causes for incidents to occur on board. Therefore, it is imperative that there be adequate job rotation for current and future crews.
“I urge all countries to fully comply with their obligations regarding crew changes, repatriation and access to medical care. I encourage Panama to share its best practices with other nations, to allow the transition period to run smoothly, as the world's seafarers deserve, "IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim concluded in his letter.