Africa: Calls to Keep Maritime Trade Moving to Supply Essential Goods

As the coronavirus pandemic negatively affects economies around the world, the United Nation Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) is calling for uninterrupted maritime trade.

In a statement posted on the UN agency's website on Wednesday, Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said as the world battles the pandemic, the global maritime transport industry is playing a critical role in the response.

"The call by the industry to all governments to keep maritime trade moving by allowing commercial ships continued access to ports worldwide and by facilitating the rapid changeover of ships' crews, should not go unheeded. About 80 per cent 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," said Dr Kituyi.

"This includes vital medical supplies, which are sorely needed at this time, and items that are necessary for the preservation of many jobs in manufacturing -- without which modern society cannot function," he added.

He said that in this time of global crisis, it was more important than ever to keep supply chains open and to allow maritime trade and cross-border transport to continue.

"Transit needs to be facilitated, too. Landlocked countries need access to food and medical supplies through neighbouring countries' seaports. Shipping and ports hold the world economy together. They connect countries, markets, businesses and people, on a scale not otherwise possible," he said.

A week ago Kitack Lim, the International Maritime Organisation Secretary-General, said international commerce must go on in the wake of the pandemic.

He said the spread of coronavirus had placed the entire world in an unprecedented situation.

"To slow the spread of the disease and mitigate its impacts, travel is being curtailed and borders are being closed. Transport hubs are being affected. Ports are being closed and ships denied entry."

Mr Lim said that 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, the pandemic.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) have written a joint open letter to four UN agencies.

The letter by Guy Platten, Secretary-General ICS and Stephen Cotton, Secretary-General (ITF) was a plea to allow commercial ships access to ports worldwide and facilitate the movement and rapid changeover of ships' crews.

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