Hundreds of thousands of seafarers are believed to have been stranded on ships for months due to the pandemic, adding to the risk to people, ships and cargoes.
A group of senior investors on Wednesday called for an end to a crisis that hundreds of thousands of seafarers had been detained on ships for many months due to COVID-19, warning that the situation was bringing greater risks every day.
About 90 percent of world trade is transported by sea, and coronavirus restrictions in many countries are affecting supply chains.
In December, the United Nations General Assembly called on all countries to designate seafarers and other maritime personnel as key personnel. The non-binding resolution came after an earlier call by UN chief Antonio Guterres in June.
In a letter to Guterres in late December, the group of investors, who represent more than $ 2 trillion in assets, stated that this was no longer just a shipping problem.
Shipping industry officials say many seafarers are at the breaking point and many have been at sea for longer than an 11 month period set out in a maritime labor convention.
This is the first time such a group of investment firms is joining efforts to ensure seafarers do not have to exceed their maximum working limit while demanding key worker status to expedite their transfers of ships even during the lockdown.
Vincent Kaufmann, CEO of the Ethos Foundation, which also includes Swiss pension funds, described the situation with an estimated 400,000 merchant ships as “a humanitarian tragedy and a major risk for the supply chain of many companies”.
“If nothing is done, it’s only a matter of time before something catastrophic happens,” Jenn-Hui Tan, who works at Fidelity International, which heads the investor group, told Reuters separately.
“The performance of some of the companies in which we invest ultimately depends on the safety of the cargoes that seafarers handle. Representing the rights and interests of seafarers helps reduce operational risks. “