Ship suppliers should be given ‘essential worker’ status to enable them to keep the world’s ships stocked with vital supplies and spare parts during the global coronavirus pandemic, says the International Ship Suppliers & Services Association (ISSA).
Responding to complaints from ship supply companies that they are being prevented from delivering to ships in some ports, ISSA has written to the heads of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the World Customs Organization (WCO) asking for ship suppliers around the world to be given essential worker status.
This would enable ship suppliers to undertake their important supply tasks unhindered.
Writing to Kitack Lim, IMO Secretary-General, ISSA President Saeed Al Malik acknowledged that the shipping industry was facing unprecedented pressures relating to the Covid-19 pandemic and that the situation was unlikely to ease until the global health problem comes under control.
Thanking the Secretary-General for his recent statement and video underlining the importance of ships and crew being allowed to sail and to be resupplied, Mr Al Malik stressed that the situation facing suppliers around the world was getting worse as the coronavirus takes hold.
“While ISSA members are mindful of the need to follow WHO and individual national health guidelines when delivering supplies to ships (this can include leaving the supplies on the quayside for the ship to load onboard itself), they are finding it difficult to secure the correctly signed documentation etc from the ship’s bridge because of the distancing rules. These are issues that can be sorted out at a local level but, as you have acknowledged yourself, port state control authorities must ensure that all steps are taken to enable the world’s ships to continue to be supplied.
“ISSA would like to ask the IMO to request all Member States to classify ship supply and ship suppliers as essential services and essential workers so they can undertake their important tasks at the world’s ports. If this request could be sent by the IMO to IMO Member States as soon as possible, I am sure this will go some way to rectifying the situation,” he said.
In a separate letter to Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary-General, the ISSA President said suppliers were finding it difficult “to undertake their tasks in some ports around the world, especially when it comes to the smooth declaration of documentation across borders that are either closed to each other or are facing problems.
“ISSA would like to ask the WCO to request all its members to classify ship supply and ship suppliers as essential services and essential workers so they can undertake their important tasks at the world’s ports and to look at putting in place smooth and comprehensive arrangements relating to the declaration of documents,” he concluded.
Mr Al Malik commented: “ISSA is speaking out on behalf of the world’s ship supply community to ensure that ships and their crews can receive vital supplies. We are an important part of the supply chain and it is essential that we are able to bring much-needed food, medical supplies and spare parts to ships in order for world trade to continue. With crew changes almost impossible throughout most of the world at this present time, some seafarers have been onboard for many months and potentially face many more months at sea before they can return to their loved ones. It is important that they receive the equipment and stores they need.”