The explosive spread of coronavirus has led to more and more countries introducing and imposing travel restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19. Global shipping has been hit hard by the coronavirus with disruption to the industry reverberating through global supply chains and throughout the global economy.
“The shipping industry plays a pivotal role in the global logistics chain, with 90 percent of the world’s goods transported by sea. It is essential that disruption to trade is minimised to ensure the steady supply of food, medicines and to consumers across the world in this hour of dire need for communities worldwide,” said ITF maritime coordinator, Jacqueline Smith.
In recent days, the European Union joined a growing list of countries and territories across the globe to approve travel bans in an effort to slow down the pandemic. The bans, and other measures including self-isolation and ‘social distancing’ have been introduced to allow hospitals, doctors and medical professionals more time to deal with this emergency, to reduce the odds that the number of people needing treatment surges past hospital capacity.
Yet, the impact of the travel restrictions is being felt by some of the key labour providing countries in the global shipping industry. The Philippines and Ukraine are amongst those countries that have closed their borders, which has made crew changes practically impossible to implement. The ITF has also learned that most flag states have been issuing exemptions from the maximum service periods prescribed within the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).
“In response to the Covid-19 crisis, the ITF has agreed to the extension of Seafarer Employment Agreements for up to one month in order to mitigate problems surrounding the replacement of crew,” said Smith.
The ITF has decided that during the period from 17 March 2020 to 16 April 2020, the federation will not challenge extensions of contracts of up to one month even when extensions push the service periods of seafarers past the maximum allowable under relevant ITF approved collective bargaining agreements or the MLC.
“Extension will only be provided when individual seafarers consent to such extensions,” said Smith. “This also goes without saying the wishes of any individual seafarer should be taken into account, and should a seafarer have a solid case for being repatriated at the end of their contract regardless of travel restrictions, their case will be evaluated further by the ITF and our social partners,” she said.
The ITF today also reiterated its call for all sectors of the shipping industry to continue working together to keep the vital flow of raw materials and supplies moving.