The European Commission and EU Member States must take urgent action to ensure seafarers are admitted into the EU Schengen territory for the purpose of joining their ships or to be repatriated, the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) and European Communities of Shipping Associations (ECSA) said.
Shipping must benefit from the re-establishment of transport links between Europe and other parts of the world and effect crew changes in European ports, they said in a joint letter to the Commission.
The health, safety and welfare of seafarers will suffer tremendously if crew changes do not happen as planned.
While there have been some positive developments in the EU member states and third countries in facilitating the movement of seafarers, these efforts are at risk of being nullified.
Third country seafarers are often unable to obtain the visa they require in order to temporarily enter the Schengen territory to join or leave a ship since most diplomatic missions are closed or not fully functional and visas on arrival are not widely available. Crew change arrangements, therefore, risk being stalled.
In the note accompanying the letter, the two social partners outline the issues seafarers are currently facing in crew changes and what steps need to be taken to solve them.
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