The Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change is a worldwide call to action to end the unprecedented crew change crisis caused by Covid-19. To date, more than 600 companies have signed up.

The US Exporters Competitive Maritime Council (ECMC) was an early signatory, joining hundreds of shippers, heavy hauliers, vessel owners, and freight forwarders, among others. Reda Hicks, president of ECMC, said: “The Neptune Declaration is an aspirational document, intended to urge action by policymakers around the world who have the ability to ensure better treatment for crewmembers.”

The Neptune Declaration urges the implementation of four main actions to address the crisis:

  • Recognise seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to Covid-19 vaccines
  • Establish and implement gold standard health protocols based on existing best practice
  • Increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes
  • Ensure air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers

After many false starts, Hicks hopes that the Neptune Declaration is a way to bring this seafarer crisis to an end. “It is not our job to tell individual governments the best way to go about enacting these policies. But, we think the main action items set out the Neptune Declaration are good guidelines, and we think that authorities should find a way to put them into practice, in accordance with whatever practical considerations make the most sense for them,” she explained.

In the USA, MARAD has been engaged on the classification of crewmembers as essential workers, as has the Center for Disease Control and the Maritime Industry Crew Change Taskforce, Hicks added. “There are also numerous people working to educate elected officials in Washington on why it is critical that crew members be classified as essential workers.

“[In the USA] it will be individual states that decide essential worker priority. But the various organisations in DC can issue policy directives down to the state level urging that crew members be treated as essential workers, and be given the ability to hop the line [for a vaccine].”

She said that the Neptune Declaration is an ideal way to vocalise the issues crewmen face, in a low-risk, high-reward fashion for industry members. “The Neptune Declaration provides industry leaders the opportunity to take a clear position about how the people working in our industry should be treated. As a corporate values statement, it is very important. It is not prescribing a one-size-fits-all way to care for crewmembers all over the world, but it is saying we must find a way to do so.”