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Panama crew change shows that governments are shifting their position

Seven crew members of the container vessel Rhine Maersk were repatriated to their home countries from Panama, with six new colleagues signing on to the 4,500TEU boxship.

In another sign that the UK-hosted International Maritime Organization summit on crew changes, on 9 July, is having the desired effect, Panamanian authorities facilitated the repatriation of seafarers. The country was not, however, one of the 13 signatories to the statement made after this event.

Maersk and the Maritime Authority of Panama secured the crew change, with local authorities following strict safety protocol, according to a Maersk statement.

Maersk echoed the International Maritime Organization's call for governments to establish procedures for thousands of crew members to return to their families since many have been aboard vessels for up to 10 months, which created challenges for maintaining physical and psychological stability.

The seven crew members were transported from the Panama Canal to the international airport to board a plane, which took them to Amsterdam and Copenhagen. From there, they will take connecting flights on their journey home. The six new members arrived by air, to board Rhine Maersk and continue with its onward passage.

This is the second repatriation of a crew that was successfully carried out from Panama. The first one took place on 12 July on San Pasley a, German owned feeder ship, where thirteen crew members were repatriated thanks on a humanitarian flight.

Head of Americas Marine at Maersκ, Pavan Chhabra, indicated that the Danish shipping company is pleased to see its efforts in engaging with authorities in accelerating the crew changes process is paying off. "Our sincere thanks go out to the Panamanian authorities and the colleagues/staff involved in Maersk Panama and Americas Liner Operation Cluster (LOC) in achieving this key milestone," he stated.

Lars O. Nielsen, Maersk CEO Latin America highlighted that the health of the seafarers is the key to the company's services. "We are now able to arrange the first crew changes. We need everyone involved to stay focused and engaged in ensuring this practice can continue," he commented.

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