Current coronavirus policy as applied to shipping is a potentially disastrous “own goal” that threatens not only the mental health and human rights of seafarers, but also the viability of ocean supply chains on which those in lockdown depend, according to an alliance of leading shipowners and managers. At present, more than 100,000 seafarers are believed to be in effect marooned at sea because coronavirus shutdowns worldwide are preventing them from entering or transiting countries and/or finding flights on which to return home.
The alliance, which represents more than 1,500 vessels and over 70,000 seafarers, includes D/S Norden, Grieg Star, Reederei Nord, Dynacom, V.Group, Wilhelmsen Ships Service, Pacific Carriers Limited (PCL), Magsaysay, Augustea, Columbia Ship Management, Inchcape Shipping Services and Synergy Group. It says it has developed port viability and detailed seafarer risk assessment plans which it is convinced will mitigate the risk of coronavirus infections during essential crew changeovers. It is now urging immediate governmental and inter-governmental action to enable the resumption of crew changes including the designation of seafarers a ‘key workers.’ Within the Middle East, Jebel Ali and Fujairah have been identified as being viable crew change locations where a high degree of safety would be possible.
Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), said he was proud of how the shipping industry was responding to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Around 90% of all global trade is transported by commercial shipping,” he commented. “At the heart of all this are the unsung heroes – ship crews especially, but also port staff and those who provide the logistics for the ships. Governments must not forget that our seafarers are key workers and ensure consistent support at this critical time.”