A group of international shipping associations has penned an open letter to Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, calling on him to take a stand for stranded seafarers.
BIMCO, Intercargo, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and Intertanko met virtually to discuss the continued lack of international recognition of seafarers as key workers despite 90% of global trade relying on shipping in some part.
Committed to finding solutions to the crew change and climate crises, the leaders of the major shipping bodies called on Bezos to use his influence and profile as the world’s leading entrepreneur to take a stand for the 400,000 seafarers stranded at sea.
The joint open letter also encouraged the entrepreneur, whose business relies upon global shipping, to exert pressure on the incoming Biden administration in the US and other world leaders to recognise seafarers as key workers.
Esben Poulsson, chairman of the ICS, who chaired the Round Table meeting, said: “2020 has been one of the most challenging years for the world in recent times. But we have seen companies like Amazon increasing their profits thanks to a great extent to the actions of seafarers who have kept trade flowing.
“We now need leaders like Jeff Bezos to raise their voices in support of the many seafarers who despite being in effect trapped by the crew change crisis have continued to perform in their duties.”
Additionally, the shipping bodies discussed other pressing issues the industry is facing as it moves into 2021 including the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations.
They raised that as several vaccines become headlines around the world for their high level of efficacy, seafarers, as key workers, should receive these vaccinations quickly and efficiently.
With hundreds of thousands of sailors trapped on board vessels, unable to disembark due to crew change facilities being made unavailable during the pandemic, the charterers’ change of attitude to actively support crew change is needed.
Poulsson said: “Without immediate action from industry and governments around the world, 2021 will be a year of slow and complicated recovery.
“For an industry which supports the vast majority of global trade and lies at the heart of viable economic recovery, this represents an unacceptable future.”
Members of the Round Table expressed concern that there was now a risk that sailors could be forgotten again if there was not a specific programme put in place to vaccinate seafarers as a priority.
“It is of utmost importance that seafarers are more widely recognised as key workers and prioritised for vaccinations,” Poulsson added. “This is urgently needed to end the nightmare many hundreds of thousands of seafarers have endured over the last year, allowing them to just do their jobs.”
The continued importance of the shipping industry controlling its greenhouse gas emissions and its wider impact on the environment was also discussed.
The Round Table welcomed the progress made at the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) MEPC 75 meeting but it was obvious there is an immediate need for a large-scale injection of political will and research for real progress towards a zero-carbon industry by 2050 to be made.
Members pledged to urgently work towards a sustainable and equitable future for all.