Shipping will play a vital role in helping the world to contend with the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Kitack Lim, secretary general of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Speaking in an IMO video, Lim noted that despite the current travel restrictions and border closures that have been implemented to stem the spread of the virus, the shipping industry must collaborate closely with ports and other key stakeholders to ensure essential food and medical supplies can continue to be delivered by sea.
“In these difficult times, the ability for shipping services and seafarers to deliver vital goods, including medical supplies and foodstuffs, will be central to responding to, and eventually overcoming, this pandemic,” he said. “It is, therefore, crucially important that the flow of commerce by sea should not be unnecessarily disrupted. At the same time, the safety of life at sea and protection of the marine environment must also remain paramount.”
Lim added that the industry must also do all it can to safeguard seafarers.
“We must remember the hundreds of thousands of seafarers on ships,” he said. “They are, unwittingly, on the front line of this global calamity. Their professionalism ensures that the goods we all need are delivered – safely and with minimal impact on our precious environment. These are people, usually far from home and family. Their own health and welfare is as important as that of anyone else. I urge a practical and pragmatic approach, in these unusual times, to issues like crew changeovers, resupply, repairs, survey and certification and licensing of seafarers.”
IMO has already worked with the World Health Organization and other industry partners to provide practical advice and guidance on various technical and operational matters related to Covid-19 via a dedicated page on its website.
“I will personally be initiating a series of meetings and consultations with leaders from shipping, ports and other key related sectors so that we can all better understand the issues being faced and develop sensible, practical and unified solutions,” said Lim. “I have spoken many times of our ‘voyage together’. Never has the spirit of those words been more important than it is now.”
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