In a letter addressed to European Commissioners, jointly signed by ECSA and the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF), the two maritime social partners call for special measures to be taken with the greatest urgency. Such actions will help ensure that the shipping industry and the maritime transport workers can play their role in supporting the EU economy to the fullest extent possible, and that the social, operational and economic impacts of the crisis are reduced as much as possible.
The letter was addressed to the European Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, the European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, and the High Representative of the EU, Josep Borrell Fontelles.
"We very much welcome the Commission’s communication of 8 April 2020 ‘Guidelines on protection of health, repatriation and travel arrangements for seafarers, passengers and other persons on board ships’," wrote the two organisations in their letter. "We are very pleased to notice that this need for a broad definition of maritime workers was recognised and included in the guidelines."
Both partners agree that the guidelines will solve specific problems stemming from measures imposed unilaterally by different Member States and prevent new bottlenecks from developing. These measures that are not in line with the new guidelines are severely impeding the movement of maritime transport workers, including seafarers, so as to join their ships, exercise their right to shore leave and be repatriated at the end of their tours of duty, whilst their colleagues are forced to wait at home, unable to take their places on board.
Therefore, both ECSA and the ETF request the Commissioners for help in putting forward a concrete proposal to the Council for political agreement regarding designated ports for crew disembarkation and crew changes, in line with the conditions set (inter alia geographical spread, capacity, proximity to health facilities and international airports).
Both maritime social partners also highlighted to the Commissioners the pressing repatriation of European seafarers who are currently stranded in third countries or on vessels that have been unable to obtain permission to dock. To this end, assistance by the European External Action Service would certainly help ensure cases can be dealt with collectively wherever possible.
Despite the many challenges posed by the current crisis, maritime workers across the whole European shipping industry are working to ensure the continued supply of goods and equipment and the necessary transport services to millions of citizens currently affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.