IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim in an address recently stressed the vital need to maintain commerce by sea and protect seafarers welfare in the face of the coronavirus shut down.
“The spread of the coronavirus has 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.
“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, this pandemic.
“It is, therefore, crucially important that the flow of commerce by sea
should not be unnecessarily disrupted. At the same time, the safety of life at
sea and protection of the marine environment must also remain paramount.
“One of the goals of the IMO, as stated in its Convention, is to ensure availability of shipping services to the commerce of the world, for the benefit of humanity. I urge all IMO Member States to bear this in mind when framing their policy decisions with regard to the coronavirus. Defeating the virus must be the first priority, but global trade, in a safe, secure and environmentally friendly manner must be able to continue, too.
“We must also remember the hundreds of thousands of seafarers on ships. They
are, unwittingly, on the front line of this global calamity. Their
professionalism ensures that the goods we all need are delivered – safely and
with minimal impact on our precious environment. These are people, usually far
from home and family. Their own health and welfare is as important as that of
“Again, I urge a practical and pragmatic approach, in these unusual times,
to issues like crew changeovers, resupply, repairs, survey and certification
and licensing of seafarers.
“Together with our industry partners and colleagues in the World Health
Organization, IMO has been developing and issuing practical advice and guidance
on a variety of technical and operational matters related to the coronavirus.
You can find this on our website, and we will be updating this as appropriate
as the situation develops.
“I will personally be initiating a series of meetings and consultations with
leaders from shipping, ports and other key related sectors so that we can all
better understand the issues being faced and develop sensible, practical and
“I have spoken many times of our ‘voyage together’. Never has the spirit of
those words been more important than it is now.”