COVID-19: Let’s keep ships moving, ports open and cross-border trade flowing

The global maritime transport industry is calling on all governments to keep maritime trade moving by allowing commercial ships continued access to ports worldwide and by facilitating the rapid changeover of ships’ crews.  Lee Kok Leong, executive editor, Maritime Fairtrade, reports

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Secretary-General, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi urges the leaders of G20 to heed the call by the shipping industry to keep maritime trade flowing unimpeded.  As the world battles the pandemic, the global maritime transport industry is playing a critical role in the response.  Shipping and ports hold the world economy together.  They connect countries, markets, businesses and people, on a scale not otherwise possible.

Around 90 percent of global trade is transported by commercial shipping and this includes vital medical supplies, which are sorely needed at this time, and items that are necessary for the preservation of many jobs in manufacturing, without which modern society cannot function.

In this time of global crisis, it is more important than ever to keep supply chains open and to allow maritime trade and cross-border transport to continue.  This means keeping the world’s ports open for ship calls and the movement of ships’ crews with as few obstacles as possible.  Transit needs to be facilitated, too. Landlocked countries need access to food and medical supplies through neighboring countries’ seaports.

Dr Kituyi also requested ports to treat seafarers as key workers and afford them the same flexibilities currently given to aircrew and health workers in boarding and leaving ships, as some 100,000 shipping crew members need to change shift every month.  Many port states have imposed local regulations, travel and quarantine restrictions, precluding free access to seafarers.  Some operators have suspended crew changes aboard ships to lessen their social interactions.

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