Shipping is the most cost-effective way to transport large volumes of goods over long distances, and over 80% of goods traded worldwide are carried by sea. To keep our economy running, especially in difficult times of epidemics, such as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), it is of utmost importance to keep ships sailing, moving the bulk of goods including medical supplies and food. Every month, around 100,000 seafarers need to disembark from the ships that they operate to comply with regulations governing safe working hours and crew welfare, and another 100,000 seafarers will embark to continue to move the global trade safely. However, as countries around the world tighten border controls in against the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, seafarers are prohibited from boarding or leaving ships at most ports, with the exception of just a few. This situation is leading seafarers to serve onboard vessels beyond their contracted shifts. Given that more than a quarter of seafarers suffer from depression because of their long time spent at sea and being away from family and friends, banning crew changes will put their mental health at risk. This will further increase the likelihood of marine accidents, jeopardize global supply chains, and ultimately exacerbate current hardships. To tackle this emergency, the International Maritime Organization and the European Commission, amongst others, call on governments to coordinate efforts to designate ports for crew changes while preventing the potential spread of the coronavirus. The aim of the study is to develop a framework that integrates big data, machine learning, and operational research for governments and supranational organizations to choose ports for crew changes, safeguarding seafarers’ welfare, and strengthening the global response to the threats of epidemics.