ECSA and the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) sent a joint letter to the European Commissioner for Transport, requesting her assistance in ensuring EU-wide coordination on implementing the IMO's 'Framework of Protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic'. The IMO recently published the 12-point Framework of Protocols on 6 May.
In their joint letter, both organisations urge the Commission to actively coordinate Member States' efforts so as to ensure that all the necessary services are put in place:
"Close coordination within the Commission between the different services responsible for maritime, aviation, land transport, health, accommodation facilities (in cases of overnight stays), police and border controls, visa and external affairs is crucial and therefore an action plan to ensure their coordination action is necessary."
The EU is also uniquely placed to lead these efforts and set an example for the other regions of the world to follow. Through its External Action Service and working with Member States' diplomatic missions, the Commission can help establish seafarer corridors between Europe and the other key regions.
The letter also highlighted current barriers to the free travel of maritime transport workers, as not all Member States have declared maritime transport workers as key workers for them to travel internally and cross the border into the EU and be exempt from quarantine rules.
ECSA and the ETF also seek the Commission's help in ensuring that pre-boarding requirements can be carried out in the third countries, including medical tests and visa applications. Third-country seafarers need to be able to obtain Schengen Visas in their home countries. Unfortunately, despite the Commission's guidance of 30 March and 8 April, very few Member States are processing visa applications in third countries, or have adapted their procedures to allow, temporarily, for more visas to be issued at their borders.
"Given the complicated nature of the procedures involved, only with joint efforts of all concerned and strong leadership and coordination can we manage. There is no further time to wait - our efforts are urgently needed for the health and well-being of seafarers," wrote the organisations in the letter.