The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH) are jointly calling on all governments to support maritime trade and global supply chains by continuing to allow commercial ships access to ports worldwide even as countries seek to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
ICS and IAPH in an open letter addressed to G20 leaders appealed for quick action to protect global supply chains from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
“In this time of global crisis, it is more important than ever to keep supply chains open and maritime trade and transport moving,” said the letter issued March 20.
It added that “a co-ordinated approach by governments, working in conjunction with the UN International Maritime Organization, WHO, and other relevant agencies is therefore of the utmost importance.”
Guy Platten, ICS secretary general, said shipping is the lifeblood of the world, and without the efficient and safe transportation of food, medical supplies, raw materials and fuel, “countries could face an even more difficult situation than the one we are all facing.”
“We need nations, led by the G20, to work together to provide coordinated rather than kneejerk restrictions to protect us all from COVID-19,” he said. “We need pragmatic, science-based and harmonised guidance for the global maritime sector that ensures the safe delivery of the goods that we are all going to rely upon in the coming months. This is a simple ask that can deliver a win-win for all.”
Patrick Verhoeven, IAPH managing director, added: “Whilst the primary objective of protecting public health should not be jeopardised in any way, ports must remain fully operational with all their regular services in place, guaranteeing complete functionality of supply chains.”
He said governments should support shipping, ports and transport operators in “doing everything possible to allow transport of goods in and out of ports so that food, medicine and other vital supplies will continue to reach people worldwide.”
The letter also highlighted the importance of commercial shipping in supporting manufacturing and job preservation.
It said that “90% 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.”
He said these items are necessary for “the preservation of many jobs in manufacturing—without which modern society simply cannot function.”
The joint letter has been sent to G20 government leaders and UN bodies ahead of their extraordinary G20 summit scheduled for March 24.
The ICS represents the world’s national shipowners’ associations and over 80% of the world’s merchant shipping tonnage, and the IAPH speaks for the global port industry.