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Maritime industry writes to UN bodies on change of seafarers

New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) International maritime chambers have written to the agencies of the United Nations on the importance of seafarers in global trade and smooth functioning of the supply chains.

In their letter, the heads of US agencies, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and International Transport Workers' Federation (ITWF) have sent a joint letter to the heads of UN agencies whereby they have said that about one lakh seafarers must change over every month to comply with rules and regulations and for crew welfare.

It said that as the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, it is important for governments to understand that around 90 per cent 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 for the preservation of many jobs in manufacturing — without which modern society simply cannot function.

“In this time of global crisis, it is more important than ever to keep supply chains open and maritime trade and transport moving,” said the joint letter.

“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, it suggested that professional seafarers, regardless of nationality, should be treated as any other international ‘key workers', such as airline crew and medical personnel and they should be afforded special consideration, notwithstanding the need to comply with emergency health protocols, treated with pragmatism and understanding when seeking to travel to and from their ships.

“We therefore call on your organisations to highlight the critical importance of this issue with the governments of your member states,” said the letter.

In a video statement, on March 16, the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization, Kitack Lim said that a pragmatic approach should be taken in terms of resupply, repairs, survey and certification and licensing of seafarers.

“The spread of coronavirus has placed the entire world in an unprecedented situation. To slow the spread of disease and mitigate its impact, travel is being curtailed and borders are being closed,” he said.

“Again, I urge a practical and pragmatic approach, in these unusual times, to issues such as resupply, repairs, survey and certificationand licensing of seafarers,” Lim added.

Sector experts say that global shipping industry is on the verge of collapse due to the halt in trade and maritime activities across the globe in view of the pandemic.

They said that the functioning of the sector runs on the endurance, physical and mental strength of seamen and they may not be able to continue for long without relief or shore leaves.

–IANS

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