UN agencies urged to allow commercial ships access ports

A vessel enters the Mombasa port on February 9, 2019. FILE PHOTO | NMG

What you need to know:

  • The International Chamber Shipping (ICS) and International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) urged all ports to facilitate trade to keep business moving in the face of Covid19 crisis.

Two global agencies have called on the United Nations to ensure that commercial ships are allowed access to ports as coronavirus continues to paralyse global supply chain.

The International Chamber Shipping (ICS) and International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) urged the United Nations agencies from the global maritime transport industry to allow commercial ships access to ports worldwide by facilitating the movement and rapid changeover of ships' crews.

In joint letter signed by ICS secretary general Guy Platten and his ITF counterpart Stephen Cotton, the two organisations urged all ports to facilitate trade to keep business moving in the face of Covid19 crisis.

"As the Covid-19 pandemic takes hold, it is important for the world's governments to fully understand that around 90 percent 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," read the statement.

The two bodies said it is important to keep supply chains open and maritime trade and transport moving. Thus, they said, there is need to keep the world's ports open for calls by visiting commercial ships, and facilitating crew changes and movement of ships' crews with “as few obstacles as possible”.

The intervention comes at a time a number of state ports have issued strict measures, some of which are hindering ships from docking at ports.

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) managing director Daniel Manduku has assured that no ship will be locked out of the port due to coronavirus, saying strict surveillance mechanism has been put in place to ensure the port is protected from corona virus infections.

Mr Manduku said some of the measures include inspecting all vessels that have called at China within last 14 days or crew that have travelled to China in the last 14 days in deep sea.

"All vessels arriving from China must fill out Maritime Declaration of Health that states health status of crew and submit in advance, crew list, and a 'voyage memo' (voyage details to show vessel movements for last 14 days and a valid ship control or exemption certificate," said Mr Manduku.

Some of the protective measures KPA has set include ensuring port officials and pilots wear protective gear prior to boarding any ship, avoiding close interaction between KPA Pilot and ship crew and ship's lifts must be disinfected before boarding by KPA pilot.

KPA has recommended a red flag to be hosted on ships that have not gone through Free Pratique, and ships' Masters to ensure provision of sanitisers along the access gang ways.

Every month, around 100,000 seafarers need to be changed over from the ships globally which they operate in order to comply with relevant international maritime regulations, governing safe working hours and crew welfare, so that they can continue to transport global trade safely.

ICS and ITF have called 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.

The ICS represents the world's national shipowners' associations and over 80 percent of the world's merchant shipping tonnage while ITF speaks on behalf of approximately two million seafarers who operate the world's internationally-trading commercial ships.

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