Maritime industry appeals to UN to keep supply chains open

Wide angle aerial photo of a container ship sailing through calm blue ocean with fog in the distance.

The global maritime transport industry has written a joint open letter to United Nation (UN) agencies highlighting the need for governments to keep maritime trade moving during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This includes keeping supply chains open and maritime trade and transport moving. As well as keeping international ports open for calls by visiting commercial ships.

The open letter, written on behalf of the International Chamber of Shipping, says, “As the COVID-19 pandemic takes hold it is vital that all governments keep maritime trade moving by continuing to allow commercial ships access to ports worldwide and by facilitating the movement and rapid changeover of ships’ crews.”

The open letter has been addressed to the UN Labour Organization, UN International Maritime Organization, UN Conference on Trade and Development Director General, and World Health Organization.

As the COVID-19 pandemic takes hold, it is important for the world’s governments to fully understand that around 90% of global trade is transported by commercial shipping, which moves the world’s food, energy and raw materials, as well as manufactured goods and components – including vital medical supplies and many products sold in supermarkets, items that are necessary (due to complex supply chains) for the preservation of many jobs in manufacturing – without which modern society simply cannot function.

The letter also highlights the need for merchant seafarers to be granted exemption from national travel restrictions in order to keep the supply chains functional.

In view of their vital role during the global pandemic, the ICS suggests that professional seafarers, regardless of nationality, should be treated as any other international ‘key workers’, such as airline crew and medical personnel. 

The letter continues, they should be afforded special consideration and, notwithstanding the need to comply with emergency health protocols, treated with pragmatism and understanding when seeking to travel to and from their ships.

The ICS therefore calls on UN organizations to highlight the critical importance of this issue with the governments of your member states.

Finally the letter states, “We request, as a matter of urgency, that this topic be added to the agenda of appropriate high level meetings, and that national authorities in your organisations’ member states should be encouraged to engage immediately with their national shipowners’ association and national seafarers’ union, in order to find rapid solutions to this serious problem which otherwise risks impeding global efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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