The UK Chamber of Shipping spoke with the Maritime Minister Kelly Tolhurst on 17 March and demanded an immediate multi-million pound government support package to ensure the shipping industry can continue to bring in the food, goods and medicines the UK will need to fight the coronavirus (COVID-19).
After the conference call, UK Chamber of Shipping Chief Executive Bob Sanguinetti said: “The world is facing a monumental crisis. Shipping is the lifeblood of our nation and we must do what we can as an industry to keep our supply lines open for a strong and healthy UK.
“Shipowners will adapt to meet the ongoing coronavirus challenges head on. It will mean changes to infrastructure, employment and processes on ships and in ports, but it will only succeed with the necessary leadership and support from government today,” he added.
“We recognise we are living in unprecedented times and we strongly urge the government to set up an emergency relief fund to help the industry in the coming weeks and months. The UK shipping sector moves 95% of our trade and employs over 180,000 people. Immediate and ongoing financial support from the government is needed to guarantee the importation of essential medical supplies, food, manufacturing components and other goods, and the future prospects of our seafarers.”
To keep freight moving and to enable the UK to continue to function, the UK Chamber of Shipping is specifically asking for a multi-million pound fund to help with hugely reduced cash flows resulting from dramatic loss of business, to keep freight flowing into the country.
It is also highlighting the need for support with seafarers’ salaries in the short term to prevent job losses and loss of expertise; grants to assist with the additional costs of virus provisions which operators have put in place; and grants to deal increased costs such as overtime, agency fees and any other cost associated with providing sufficient crew.
The Chamber is also requiring clear guidance to ports and local health authorities to allow ships to continue trading, and for the swift disembarkation / repatriation of crew members.
Other requests include delays on VAT payments, the use of credit notes for future travel in lieu of refunding deposits; Relief from income tax for seafarers onboard vessels which ordinarily spend over 183 days a year outside the country
Ships laid up in UK ports should continue to receive tax and duty relief for standard supplies
Finally, the Chamber also asks for assistance with the safe return of UK cruise passengers from around the world.