ICS and ITF ask UN to keep ports open and to enable crew changes

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) have asked the United Nations to keep ports open and to enable crew changes so that maritime commerce can keep moving in the current Covid-19 global crisis.

“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 ICS and ITF said in a letter to the Secretary-Generals of various UN agencies.

The association added that “in this time of global crisis, it is more important than ever to keep supply chains open and maritime trade and transport moving”.

In particular, they said, this meant keeping the world’s ports open for vessel calls by commercial ships, and facilitating crew changes and the movement of ship crews.

“We therefore wish to emphasise the vital need for the world’s professional merchant seafarers to be granted appropriate exemptions from any national travel restrictions, when joining or leaving their ships, in order to keep the world’s maritime supply chains functioning.  In view of their vital role during the global pandemic, we suggest that professional seafarers, regardless of nationality, should be treated as any other international ‘key workers’, such as airline crew and medical personnel. As such, 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 letter said.

They requested as a matter of urgency that the topic be added to the agenda of appropriate high level meetings, and that national authorities 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.”