The world’s reliance on maritime transport makes it more important than ever to keep ships moving, ports open and cross-border trade flowing, and to support ship crew changeovers, the United Nations maritime and trade bodies said in a joint statement published on June 9.
UNCTAD and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) reiterated calls for governments to promote crew well-being by allowing crew changes and ensuring seafarers and other maritime personnel have access to documentation and travel options so they can return home safely.
Maritime transport depends on the 2 million seafarers who operate the world’s merchant ships, which carry more than 80 percent of global trade by volume, including most of the world’s food, energy, raw materials and manufactured goods. Crew changeovers are essential for the continuity of shipping in a safe and sustainable manner, but the process is currently hampered by travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
UNCTAD and IMO reaffirmed the urgent need for “key worker” designation for seafarers, marine personnel, fishing vessel personnel, offshore energy sector personnel and service personnel at ports. Governments and relevant national and local authorities must recognize that these workers provide essential services, regardless of their nationality, and should thus exempt them from travel restrictions when in their jurisdiction, the organizations pleaded.
“Such designation will ensure that the trade in essential goods, including medical supplies and food, is not hampered by the pandemic and the associated containment measures,” read their joint statement. “We emphasize that, for trade to continue during these critical times, there is a need to keep ships moving, ports open and cross-border trade flowing, while at the same time ensuring that border agencies can safely undertake all necessary controls. International collaboration, coordination and solidarity among all is going to be key to overcoming the unprecedented global challenge posed by the pandemic and its longer-term repercussions.”