Hundreds of thousands of sailors are believed to be stranded on ships for months as a result of the pandemic, increasing the risk to people, ships and cargo.
A group of leading investors on Wednesday called for an end to a crisis involving hundreds of thousands of seafarers stranded on ships for many months due to COVID-19, warning that the situation was creating daily greater risks.
About 90% of global trade is transported by sea, and coronavirus restrictions in many jurisdictions affect supply chains.
In December, the United Nations General Assembly urged all countries to designate seafarers and other maritime personnel as key workers. The non-binding resolution came after an earlier appeal in June from UN chief Antonio Guterres.
In a letter to Guterres in late December, the investor group, which has more than $ 2 trillion in assets, said it was “no longer just a problem for the shipping industry” .
Maritime industry officials say many seafarers are at breaking point and many have been at sea for more than 11 months under a maritime labor convention.
It is the first time that such a group of investment firms have joined efforts to ensure that seafarers do not have to exceed their maximum working limit, while also seeking key worker status for speed up their transfers from ships, even during lockdowns.
Vincent Kaufmann, managing director of the Ethos Foundation, which includes Swiss pension funds, described the situation involving around 400,000 merchant seafarers as “a humanitarian tragedy and a major risk to the supply chain for many companies”.
“If nothing is done, it’s only a matter of time before something disastrous happens,” said Jenn-Hui Tan, who is with Fidelity International, who heads the investor group, to Reuters news agency separately.
“The performance of some of the companies in which we invest will ultimately be linked to the safety of the cargoes handled by seafarers. Ensuring that the rights and interests of seafarers are represented helps reduce operational risks. “