UK to hold summit to address the impact of coronavirus on shipping

UK to hold summit to address the impact of coronavirus on shipping
Ever Lambent cargo ship

The UK government is to host the first international summit on the impact of Covid-19 on crew changes next month, bringing together UN, political and business leaders from across the globe.

Led by UK Maritime Minister Kelly Tolhurst, the event will take place virtually and will be an opportunity to reflect on the impact of the pandemic on the global shipping industry, and what governments and industry must do to protect the welfare of crew workers around the world.

In a special address, Kitack Lim, the UN Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), is expected to highlight the humanitarian need to safeguard workers across the seas and states’ duties to repatriate workers swiftly.

It’s estimated that currently there are more than 1.2 million seafarers at sea, of which 200,000 are due to change over, including up to 2,000 from the UK.

“Seafarers have worked tirelessly during this pandemic to ensure people across the globe can access the essential food, medicine and supplies we all need, but thousands have been left with no way of coming ashore when faced with border restrictions,” says Tolhurst.

“This government has helped more than 7,000 crew get home back to their loved ones across the world, regardless of nationality or circumstance.

“I hope that this meeting will be a reminder of the international collaboration required by all states to bring people home.

“Many crews have had their contracts extended but this is not a long-term solution, with many seafarers on board a ship for months despite having had no contact with coronavirus and posing no risk.”

The Maritime Minister wrote to the IMO, the International Labour Organisation and the World Health Organization at the start of the outbreak on 23 March, pressing that all states follow the UK’s work in repatriating workers regardless of their nationality or employment.

The UK has remained open for seafarers to come and either stay on vessels, go ashore, take shore leave or be repatriated, abiding by Public Health England requirements and social distancing.

“We welcome the announcement to hold a virtual summit on this critical crew change issue. The fragile supply chain and global trade is now at threat of logjam due to government inaction and bureaucracy,” says Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). “Government leaders must cut through the bureaucracy, lift the continuing imposition of travel restrictions on these key workers and focus on this issue now.

“The solutions do not need money; they do not even need complicated negotiations, this is simple. The leadership provided by the UK to cut through this red tape is just the sort of initiative that is needed to free the thousands of seafarers who are trapped onboard ships across the world.”

The meeting, set up by the UK Maritime Minister, is a unique collaboration between the UK government, UN through the IMO, ICS and key international trade association to help all countries pull together to ensure that crew workers – regardless of nationality – are repatriated as swiftly as possible.

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