The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has echoed calls from the shipping industry for governments to keep shipping and supply chains open and grant special travel exemptions to seafarers in response to the COVID-19, or coronavirus, pandemic.
In a Circular issued 30 March 2020, the IMO distributed a series of recommendations for governments and relevant national authorities, proposed by a broad cross-section of global industry associations representing the maritime transportation sector.
The Circular specifically called on governments to designate professional seafarers and marine personnel, regardless of their nationality, as ‘key workers’ providing an essential service.
It also reiterated earlier calls made by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim, who said it was “crucially important that the flow of commerce by sea should not be unnecessarily disrupted.”
Lim expanded and said shipping was “on the front line of this global calamity” and that the situation needs a “practical and pragmatic approach, in these unusual times, to issues like crew changeovers, resupply, repairs, survey and certification and licensing of seafarers.”
In March 2020, representatives from the global shipping industry wrote a joint letter to the UN urging ports to be kept open to facilitate the flow of trade.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused congestion at some of the world’s biggest ports and led to uncertainty over the flow of goods.
On 1 April 2020, dockworkers refused to unload a COSCO container ship at the Port of Melbourne because they believed it had not completed the mandatory 14-day quarantine period, a story Port Technology International (PTI) reported on.