A 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 unheard.

According to Dr. Kituyi, shipping moves the world’s food, energy and raw materials, as well as manufactured goods and components. This includes vital medical supplies, and items that are necessary for the preservation of many jobs in manufacturing.

In this time of global crisis, it is more important than ever to keep supply chains open and to allow maritime trade and cross-border transport to continue. This means keeping the world’s ports open for ship calls and the movement of ships’ crews with as few obstacles as possible

Transit needs to be facilitated, as well UNCTAD said. Landlocked countries need access to food and medical supplies through neighbouring countries’ seaports.

In addition, shipping and ports connect countries, markets, businesses and people, on a scale not otherwise possible.

Facing the current pandemic, cross-border movements of relief goods like food and medical supplies will increase dramatically.

Moreover, restrictions on trade and cross-border transport may interrupt necessary aid and technical support. It could also disrupt businesses and have negative social and economic effects on the affected countries.

For this reason, UNCTAD urges governments to facilitate movement of not only relief goods, but goods in general, to minimize the negative impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Furthermore, to ensure that vital goods reach consumers and hospitals in destination countries, responsible agencies should cooperate within and among countries, so that indispensable goods reach the populations in coastal and landlocked countries alike.

At the extraordinary G20 Leaders Summit on the COVID-19 pandemic, which meets virtually this week, world leaders should embrace the call made by the shipping industry to keep maritime trade moving by allowing continued access to ports worldwide and the rapid changeover of ships’ crews

Amidst the current outbreak, seafarers have come under increased checks and scrutiny in various ports, UNCTAD's Sec-Gen stated.

Namely, many port states have imposed local regulations, travel and quarantine restrictions, precluding free access to seafarers. Some operators have suspended crew changes aboard ships to lessen their social interactions.

As the Doctor said, while observing necessary health protocols, ports should treat seafarers as key workers and afford them the same flexibilities currently given to aircrew and health workers in boarding and leaving ships, as some 100,000 shipping crew members need to change shift every month.

Port operators must also be ready, considering the potential risks to public health and the economy, if their key role in the transit of goods is affected by the spread of the virus. In fact, port workers are facing the danger of contracting COVID-19, and many ports are not ready if a critical mass of workers become sick.

Currently, UNCTAD reports that in several ports goods in transit are already affected, and essential medicine and equipment are being held up.

As they meet virtually this week, G20 leaders have an important opportunity to protect the free movement of all goods by affirming the smooth functioning of their shipping, ports and transit industries

Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi stated.

He concluded by emphasizing that all available technological trade and transport facilitation solutions should be used to reduce the burden posed by COVID-19 on maritime and cross-border trade.