The Republic of Panama, through the Panama Maritime Authority, has provided its support to all those national and international actions aimed at the well-being of seafarers, valuing and assuming that they are “Essential Workers” because they are a fundamental part of the global supply chain, which is why on this occasion we offer our support to the Neptune Declaration on the Welfare of Seafarers and the Change of Crews, we even show interest in becoming signatories of it.

The Neptune Declaration calls for the implementation of four main actions to address the crisis:
• Recognize seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to Covid-19 vaccines.
• Establish and implement sanitary protocols based on the best existing practices.
• Increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes.
• Guarantee air connectivity between key maritime centers for seafarers.

Panama began to apply these since March 2020, being the first country in the world to provide timely humanitarian assistance to the cruises “Zaandam” and “Rotterdam”, when transferring their passengers and crew, they managed the delivery of supplies, medicines, medical equipment while their transit through the Panama Canal was coordinated.

In addition, we apply recommendations established in Circular Letter of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) N ° 4204 / Add.14, relative to the prevailing need for safe crew changes while establishing the protocols to carry them out safely. Support was also given to the IMO’s decision to designate seafarers as “Essential Workers”, effective 17 May 2020.

Following these guidelines, we drew up our own protocols called “Diagram of the modalities for repatriation, disembarkation and boarding of crew members”, which through seven different modalities guarantee safe crew changes.

This deployment was carried out at a rate and scale never before seen in our country through sea, air and land, which included various government institutions, shipping companies and shipping agencies, acting in a synchronized manner, with the mission of providing a response to the Seafarers and crew members who needed to return home, achieving that from March 17, 2020 to May 2021, there were more than 18 thousand movements related to crew changes (repatriations and landings) of more than 50 different nationalities, including Panamanian seafarers, from different types of vessels, mostly cruise ships that arrived in our jurisdictional waters and ports, both by sea and by air, in vessels belonging to the Panamanian Registry as well as registered with other flags, in frank collaboration with the IMO Member States.

In addition, we express our support to the various declarations and guidelines that at the national and international level, are coordinated with the purpose of promoting the vaccination of seafarers against COVID-19, this work has also been carried out given that in order to support the essential workers, various vaccination days since May 2021 have been conducted for workers in the maritime, logistics and port sectors, as well as for Panamanian seafarers.

The Republic of Panama works hard and tirelessly on behalf of our 318,000 seafarers who are on board the more than 8,600 ships that belong to our flag, through the execution of actions that have been fully verified nationally and internationally as ratifying country of the Maritime Labor Convention, 2006, as amended (MLC, 2006), the amendments to the Convention have been adopted and it has been regulated in its national legislation through Executive Decree No. 160 of March 3, 2021.

We make sure that these labor rights are complied with on board Panamanian-flagged vessels, even in times of pandemic in which efforts have been redoubled so that all seafarers who are on our ships, maintain their current employment contracts and are guaranteed the payment of their salaries, the right to repatriation, the right to vacations, the payment of overtime, the right to medical attention and other employment benefits.

Due to all the work carried out in favor of seafarers, we have received various international recognitions and we have participated in both national and international forums and before Organizations, among which are the IMO, the United Nations (UN), the International Labor Organization, the International Federation of Transport Workers, the International Chamber of Shipping, the International Maritime University of Panama (UMIP), the International ISPS Network Mexico, among others.

Source: Hellenic Shipping News