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SG-STAR fund receives USD 500,000 from ITF and IMEC to support seafarer welfare

18 Sep 2020

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on Thursday (17 September) announced the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC) have jointly contributed USD 500,000 to the Singapore Shipping Tripartite Alliance Resilience (SG-STAR) Fund to support countries that adopt best practices for crew change. 

This adds to the SGD 1 million SG-STAR Fund established by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), Singapore Shipping Association (SSA), Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union (SMOU), and Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS). The total fund now amounts to SGD 1.68 million (approximately USD 1.2 million).

Besides ITF and IMEC, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) will also lend support to the SG-STAR Fund including technical expertise in shipping. 

With the contribution and support by ITF, IMEC and ICS, the SG-STAR Fund is the first global tripartite initiative bringing together like-minded international partners from the industry, unions and government to facilitate safe crew changes. 

The fund, based in Singapore, will be disbursed for use upstream in countries where seafarers come from. The MPA said it continues to welcome like-minded partners to join us in this global alliance.

ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton said the SG-STAR Fund has the potential to support practical solutions to reduce the severity of the crew change crisis for the world’s 1.4 million seafarers.

“For over six months, the crew change crisis has seen hundreds of thousands of seafarers either trapped on ships or unemployed at home, desperate to get to work. For the world’s seafarers, they need practical solutions now, not tomorrow, to end this humanitarian crisis and get seafarers to and from ships in a safe manner. 

“This joint initiative, working with tripartite partners to promote practical solutions to the crew change crisis, will be key to breaking the current deadlock.

“We need to see progress especially on ways seafarers can show authorities and employers their negative COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test results from verified medical institutions, so that quarantine times can be reduced on board and while waiting to join vessels,” said Cotton.

“The crew change crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has brought various maritime players to work together more closely than ever before. IMEC has participated and contributed to both global and Singapore based discussions aimed at finding solutions and providing guidance as the crisis evolved. We are pleased to join the SG-STAR Fund and hope to bring our expertise to help find solutions to this crisis,” said IMEC Chairman, Capt. Belal Ahmed.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is unfairly trapping seafarers. This initiative is exactly the type of project needed to resolve the crew change crisis,” added Guy Platten, Secretary General of the ICS.

“The ILO warmly welcomes the contributions from the ITF, IMEC and ICS 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,” commented ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.

“This is a commendable global initiative bringing together the collective efforts of governments, the shipping industry and maritime unions to take concrete steps to address the urgent issue of crew change,” added Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of International Maritime Organization.

Following the signing of the letter of intent for the SG-STAR Fund on 28 August 2020 between MPA, SSA, SMOU and SOS, a task force has been formed to work with stakeholders on solutions for safe crew change. 

Led by SSA Council Member and Chair of SSA Services Committee, Nitin Mathur, with initial members from MPA, SMOU and SOS, the task force will first work with seafarer supplying countries such as the Philippines and India on key initiatives, which include the accreditation of quarantine and isolation facilities, COVID-19 PCR testing certification, “white-listing” of clinics for PCR testing, digital solutions for tracking crew change, and interactive training sessions for crew to help them understand crew change procedures and guidelines.

SSA President Caroline Yang will chair the Governance Committee for the SG-STAR Fund, comprising MPA Chief Executive Quah Ley Hoon, SMOU General Secretary Mary Liew, SOS President Kam Soon Huat, ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton, and IMEC Chairman Capt. Belal Ahmed. Dr Lam Pin Min, Honorary Member of SSA, and CEO of Eagle Eye Centre, has been appointed as the Senior Advisor to the Governance Committee.

“The SG-STAR Fund initiated by the tripartite partners in Singapore aims to help support ship crew supplying nations enhance facilities and capabilities to establish safe and scalable “bubbles” or “corridors” to enable crew change – from the time to/from home country or country of origin, to the country where the crew joins the ship, as well as safe holding facilities at the home/origin country and the country where the crew change occurs. 

“We are heartened to have ITF and IMEC join our initiative and contribute to the fund. The ICS is also supporting this initiative including their technical expertise in shipping. 

“We look forward to having more like-minded international partners come on board this tripartite initiative so that safe crew change can be further accelerated,” said Yang.

Related: Singapore: MPA establishes floating Crew Facilitation Centre and resilience fund

Photo credit:  Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore
Published: 18 September, 2020

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