First big contingent of seafarers to address “crew change” departs from Manila

First big contingent of seafarers to address “crew change” departs from Manila

Just before the JUNE 15 deadline set by maritime employers and unions to crew supplying country’s to resolve the issue of “crew change”, one of the biggest contingent of seafarers on a chartered flight out of Manila has flown out today, June 13.

The outbound seafarers of Döhle Seafront Crewing (Manila) Inc. are set to join their respective vessels in Europe. The seamen left the NAIA Terminal 1 Saturday, June 13, bound for Hamburg, Germany onboard Condor Air flight DE 8587.

The flight was chartered by the manning agency’s principal, the Peter Döhle Group and is said to carry the FIRST big group of seafarer’s deployment since the Covid 19 lockdown last March.

This is one of the more concrete responses of the Philippine government with the initiatives of private companies to adopt to a crew change protocol as thousands of seafarers face exhaustion at the helm of critical supply routes amid the current coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

This will also be replenishing a critically depleted crew presence to make some of these vessels operate safely and thus, restart a global chain of transporting cargoes around the world.

The same flight also carried in 230 seafarers from Hamburg who were stranded when the lockdowns started.

According to lawyer Iris Baguilat, president of Döhle Seafront, they made the initiative to be able to bring back their crew deployed months ago, and to help those seafarers who are having a hard time to go back to the country due to the travel restrictions imposed by the Philippine government and overseas.

Baguilat said, the outbound flight will definitely assure those employers of the country’s more than 600,000 seafarers that “crew change” problems from before is being looked into by the government. This will assure them that crew movement is ongoing.

“We are calling the government to be lenient for the departure of those overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), especially Filipino seafarers, to be able us to supply and change those finishing contracts. This will make the seafaring afloat, especially this trying times, as the shipping industry is one of those industries being badly hit by the Covid 19 pandemic,” Baguilat said.

She added, “One of the toughest challenges in the maritime industry during this COVID-19 pandemic is facilitating crew changes because of travel restrictions and safety protocols imposed by each country. We have thousands of Filipino seafarers who remain onboard beyond end of their contracts because their replacements cannot embark ships”.

She reiterated that seafarers onboard are now facing safety issues because they suffer from fatigue, mental health issues, and have run out of maintenance medication. “Over the past months, it is very challenging to deploy Filipino seafarers because of the 400 passengers limit in Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Our foreign principal, Peter Döhle Schiffahrts- KG who mostly employs Filipino seafarers in their vessels truly understand this restriction but needs to take action as well for the welfare of our seafarers, that’s why this flight was chartered and arranged to repatriate seafarers to Manila and bring joining seafarers to northern Europe,” Baguilat stressed.

The said company was one of first manning agencies to charter a flight to cater the repatriation of some seafarers outside their company.

Baguilat said the chartered flight was well coordinated with the Department of Foreign Affairs- Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA), Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), DOH- Bureau of Quarantine, Department of National Defense, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Bureau of Immigration (BI).

For weeks now, manning agencies and other maritime stakeholders has plead their cause to the government to ease restrictions on travel for seafarers as this would severely affect the deployment of the country of qualified seamen to man these vessels that carries 90 percent of the goods around the globe.

Earlier, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) pressed the United Nations to persuade its 193 member-states to act urgently on the plight of over 200,000 tired, mentally-stretched seafarers currently stuck working on vessels across the globe and unable to be relieved of their duties.

The Manila Times reports that ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton said there were 200,000 seafarers out there right now desperate to get home to their own beds, see their families and hug their kids.

“They’ve been stuck on these ships, keeping global trade running since this pandemic blew up. Enough is enough — they have earned their ticket home. Now governments must make that happen,” he said.

Over 200,000 seafarers onboard vessels worldwide have completed their contractual tour of duty, but have been prevented from returning home. Many of these seafarers would be experiencing adverse effects on their mental health and reduced ability to safely perform their roles in the face of increasing fatigue.

ICS Secretary-General Guy Platten for his part said they addressed the letter to UN Secretary General António Guterres to signal the seriousness of this situation.

“Since the onset of the crisis, the well-being and safety of our seafarers has been our number one priority. While progress has been made, and limited numbers of crew changes have occurred, there is a pressing need to increase the speed and scale at which national governments adopt the crew change protocols,” he said.

“Time is running out. We ask action be taken immediately, ahead of 16 June 2020 — the final agreed deadline to implement crew changes for our seafarers,” the group added.

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