The shipping industry is one of very few sectors to remain relatively untouched by the coronavirus pandemic. The International Chamber of Shipping association (ICS), and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), however, warned on Tuesday that global COVID-19 transport lockdowns are putting the industry’s vital work in peril.
The industry bodies warned the G20 that COVID-19 curbs are starting to affect the movement of seafarers, saying that, “without coordinated global action, the efficient flow of imports and exports carried by sea will be jeopardised.”
“The issue of crew changes has the potential to become a massive problem for the global economy if governments do not address our concerns,” said ICS Secretary General Guy Platten.
“National lock downs, travel bans and port restrictions are making this crew change more difficult,” Platten added.
Approximately 90% of world trade is facilitated by maritime transport and there are some 1.2. million merchant sailors on the water at all times.
An estimated 100,000 crew members need to be rotated each month, but the ICS and ITF say the current restrictions on flights is becoming a major obstacle to completing crew changes “which are critical for safe and efficient maritime transportation activities to continue.”
Merchant crews are also coming up against more stringent immigration and health screening protocols when they dock. According to the industry bodies, there are tens of thousands of seafarers whose tours of duty have to come to end, waiting to be repatriated.
“The current deadlock not only threatens seafarers’ personal health and wellbeing, but also increases the risk of marine accidents,” ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton said.