The Republic of Panama, through the Maritime Authority of Panama (AMP), has been commended by the “Joint Action Group to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on transport workers around the world and the Global Supply Chain” (according to its acronym in English, JAG-TSC), led by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), in which the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), as well as the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Road Transport Organization (IRU ) and the International Tennis Federation (ITF), are also members of the group.
During the third meeting of the JAG-TSC, held virtually, the director of the Directorate General of Seafarers (DGGM), Captain Juan Maltez, participated on behalf of the AMP with the speech: “Good practices from Panama regarding seafarers and the pandemic”. Panelists included ILO Sectoral Policy Department Director Alette van Leur, ICS Labor Affairs Director Natalie Shaw, IATA Director General of Policy Analysis James Wiltshire , WHO Health Emergencies Program Border Health Technical Officer Sara Montes, ILO Senior Maritime Transport, Fisheries, Waterways Specialist Brandt Wagner who acknowledged the valuable performance made by Panama.
The findings of this working group will be presented at a meeting of the directors of these organizations and also at a meeting of a United Nations (UN) ad hoc inter-agency virtual working group on the impact of COVID-19 on seafarers.
The speech of Captain Juan Maltez focused on 6 main points, in which the excellent work carried out by the Republic of Panama was highlighted, among which:
1- Provide humanitarian aid:
We showed our solidarity in March 2020, when we were the first country to agree to provide humanitarian aid to the cruise ship Zaandam, by successfully managing in our waters the transfer of 401 asymptomatic passengers to its sister ship, the Rotterdam, without representing a risk to our population since it was carried out more than 8 miles from the mainland, strictly respecting biosecurity protocols, becoming a decisive action that managed to save the lives of the passengers and crew of these ships .
In this operation, the delivery of supplies, medicines, medical equipment and other materials requested was also managed, in addition to the collaboration of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) in the transit of these ships through the channel, assisted by Panamanian pilots.
2- Support and implement guidelines issued by UN agencies, one of the most important being the IMO’s decision to designate seafarers as “essential workers”.
Panama has maintained a firm and positive position with reference to the directives of international organizations, which is of incalculable importance to face a crisis together, which is why, on May 12, 2020, we declared “Key Workers” to all seafarers under our flag, just as we support the “Joint Statement on Prioritizing Seafarers and Aircrew for COVID-19 Vaccination”, the “Neptune Statement on People’s Wellbeing of sea and change of crew” and the “ILO Resolution concerning vaccination against COVID-19”. 19 for seafarers”, among others.
3- Coordinate the work between the various governmental and private organizations, in order to guarantee crew changes.
Each state institution, articulated by the AMP, carried out a specific task according to the function it performed, in order to execute the crew changes through the implementation of the guidelines published in the circular letter of IMO No. 4204 / Add. 14 for the recommended framework of protocols that ensure safe vessel crew changes and voyages during the COVID-19 pandemic”, it details, through seven (7) different modalities, the safe means of carrying out repatriations and crew changes and its objective is that passengers and crew members, including Panamanians, can return home safely, as well as boarding, we also collaborate with shipping companies by providing members of Panamanian crew who could easily board their ships from our ports.
4- Consult the representative organizations of shipowners and seafarers when developing and implementing measures relating to seafarer crew changes.
For the Republic of Panama, as a State that has ratified the MLC; 2006, it is very important that the decisions taken are consulted with the sectors concerned, for which high-level meetings have been held with the International Labor Organization (ILO), with the International Transport Workers’ Federation, the ITF and with the International Chamber of Shipping to inform them of all the actions carried out by our country, since last February 2020, to carry out the crew changes generated by the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) and for the benefit of people. of sea.
5- Implement vaccination programs against COVID-19.
With the support of the Ministry of Health, the Social Security Fund and the Expanded Vaccination Program, since last year all seafarers on board vessels belonging to the Panamanian Ship Registry, as well as those registered under other flags arriving in our ports have been vaccinated. . To this end, approximately 300,000 doses of vaccines are available.
6- Guarantee at all times the protection of the labor rights of seafarers.
It is important to add that despite the pandemic, Panama has remained vigilant in the application of the rights enshrined in the MLC, 2006, which have been mainly affected by the crisis, in the same way we have been attentive and ready to respond to wage claims due to our sailors so that, thanks to our intervention, they can recover them.
Over the past 37 months, the historic recovery of US$13,379,238.88 has been achieved in wage payments due from shipowners to seafarers who sail on Panamanian-flagged vessels. The Panamanian Maritime Administration has a department to deal exclusively with labor complaints from seafarers, which has helped to recover these owed wages. In the same way, all seafarers’ repatriation requests are followed up without exception, which are most often related to problems with the payment of wages. In addition, over the past 37 months, shipowners have executed 1,777 requests for the repatriation of seafarers on board their ships, following our intervention.
Of the above-mentioned record figure, USD 7,660,455.55 is only for the year 2021, which represents an increase of 279% compared to the close of the year 2020, which had been 2,021,691.29 usd.
The good practices demonstrated have been recognized internationally and we have been congratulated by the Secretary General of the IMO and the Director of Mobility and Transport of the European Union. We also had the opportunity to share our experiences in national and international forums, including the IMO, the United Nations (UN), the International Labor Organization (ILO), the International Transport Workers’ Federation , the International Chamber of Shipping, the International Maritime University of Panama (UMIP), the ISPS International Network of Mexico, among others.
Source: Panama Maritime Authority