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30 Oct 2020
4 mins
A Global Tripartite Effort to Accelerate Crew Change
Photo credit: MPA

In the first global tripartite initiative the maritime industry has seen, like-minded international partners from the industry, unions and government have banded together to address the global crew change crisis.

SMOU is glad to be a key contributor in the Singapore Shipping Tripartite Alliance Resilience (SG-STAR) Fund which was established by Singapore tripartite partners – Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), Singapore Shipping Association (SSA), SMOU, and Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS). When presented with the idea, the SMOU Executive Committee were supportive of the help we would be able to provide to strengthen crew change efforts in the region. Thanks to strong tripartite relations, the initiative was able to be conceived within a short period of time to address the pressing issues and bottlenecks that are affecting crew change in the region.

International partners, International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC), and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) also subsequently joined in contributing to the Fund to further support the tripartite efforts.

Contributions have amounted to a total of S$1.68 million (approximately US$1.2 million) in funds which will go upstream to seafarer supplying nations to create concrete solutions and propagate best practices so that safe scalable “bubbles” or “corridors” can be established for crew change. ITF General Secretary, Mr Stephen Cotton said that seafarers need practical solutions, and this joint initiative with tripartite partners “will be key to breaking the current deadlock.” The ICS will also be lending support to the SG-STAR Fund through their technical expertise in shipping.

Formed to administer the funds, the SG-STAR Fund taskforce will start with key seafarer supplying countries in the region such as the Philippines and India to sharpen crew change processes and soft infrastructure. This will cover many areas such as COVID-19 PCR testing processes and digital solutions for information dissemination and tracking of crew change needs. The SG-STAR Fund hopes to achieve enhanced facilities and capabilities to establish safe and scalable “bubbles” or “corridors”. This will ensure the safer and smoother facilitation of crew change in the region, which will enable seafarers onboard to be relieved on time, and those on shore to find work onboard once again.

 “It takes a whole-of-nation approach as well as others beyond Singapore to overcome the crew change challenges that we are currently facing. With the formation of the SG-STAR Fund, we can help strengthen safe crew change of seafarers from the labour supply countries. This is the commitment of our international and tripartite partners which will assist more seafarers to be reunited with their families back home, and at the same time allow fresh crew to sign on safely so as to provide for their families. We deeply appreciate our seafarers as they have contributed as essential workers to keep the global supply chain going in these unprecedented times. We hope to see more support from national and international tripartite partners so that safer and more crew change can be done for the welfare of seafarers.” SMOU General Secretary and NTUC President Ms Mary Liew.

Supported by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), the SG-STAR Fund initiative welcomes more like-minded international partners to join and contribute to this initiative so that actions can be scaled up. “The ILO warmly welcomes the contributions from the ITF and the IMEC to the SG-Star Fund which not only provides much needed resources but confirms the tripartite and truly global reach of the initiative. This is exactly the type of response that we need to the dramatic and worldwide problems of crew changes,” said Mr Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General.

Countries should also consider adopting the SG-STAR Fund model by setting up similar funds in different regions of the world. This can serve to improve crew change protocol in other labour supply nations, so that solutions for the present global crew change issue can be accelerated.