COVID-19: Seafarers importance and plight in the spotlight

Port operations being carried out. Credit: WPSP

The importance and plight of seafarers during COVID-19 restrictions has been brought to the forefront of the media and world stage, industry representatives discussed at the World Ports Conference webinar.

“In the past few months, since a lot of countries went into lockdown, we have gone from an invisible industry and invisible crew to the industry that keeps the global supply chain open,” said Ines Nastali, editor of Ports and Harbors, in her opening address.

This sentiment was shared by the all the speakers at the webinar. Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, pointed out how prior to the pandemic the world had a chronic case of sea-blindness, compared to present day where the issue of crew change has made it to the front pages of mainstream media.

“We must capitalise on this newfound public awareness, especially as this crisis has exposed both the fragility and strength of the global supply chain, as ships have continued to supply essential good around the world despite COVID-19 restriction,” said Platten. “Suddenly the media realise there are 1.2 million seafarers out there that can’t stay onboard indefinitely, and need to be moved, this issue has gained immense traction.”

The issue of crew changes, or lack thereof, now appears to be an issue the general public is more aware of, as well as where their goods and services come from and that 90% of all goods are shipped, Platten put forward.

Kitack Lim, secretary general International Maritime Organisation (IMO), presented his sincere appreciation for all maritime stakeholders during the pandemic, “Seafarers, maritime workers, all workers in port areas and terminals are all facing an unprecedented situation pandemic situation, at the same time luckily we have seen an unprecedented and extraordinary collaboration in maritime sector.

“I would like to encourage the many IMO members to pay more attention to these issues and that of seafarers as part of global supply chain economy,” concluded Lim.

The webinar took place on 10 June and was jointly hosted by IHS Markit and the International Association of Ports and Harbors. The recording of the webinar is available on demand, to sign up for other World Ports Conference webinars please click here.