Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
Deputy Master Captain Ian McNaught describes the impact made by COVID-19 on the safety and charity operations of Trinity House and the work being done to move forward
Working to keep seafarers safe and supported
‘Following the recent revision to the Government’s lockdown restrictions, we at Trinity House are looking closely at how we can manage a safe return to full operational capacity as both a General Lighthouse Authority and a major maritime charity.
‘First and foremost—given that our statutory work as a General Lighthouse Authority and the objectives of the Trinity House Maritime Charity are all being delivered to a high standard—we are confident that we can take the time to get this right and do it properly.
‘Our people’s safety—both at sea and on shore—is our priority; we will continue to focus on delivering our various responsibilities and make our return to offices and depots when it is safe and appropriate, with all safety measures fully in place. As an organisation we have adapted quickly and deftly to remote working, making extensive use of technology to enhance collaboration and communication across shore teams and vessel crews.
‘While their core duties have resumed throughout the lockdown, our vessels and Buoy Yard teams are ready to pick up the backlog of buoy inspections and maintenance and our Field Operations teams will be getting out there to resume technical inspections and painting; we are proud to say that availability of our aids to navigation has been kept to the incredibly high standard demanded of all lighthouse authorities.
‘Likewise, our schedule for inspecting over 11,000 local aids to navigation has been slowed but will now return to its normal pace and we are making tentative arrangements—pending further Government guidance—to carry out our annual inspection committee.
The Maritime Charity
‘The work of the Maritime Charity has been no less busy and meaningful; the team works diligently—and in near-constant collaboration with partner charities—to meet the growing welfare need in the maritime community, to ensure the welfare and safety of mariners and their dependants.
‘Emergency response grants have been given to the Fishermen’s Mission, the Sailors’ Children’s Society and the Mission to Seafarers, among others, and the team has been meeting regularly with other funding partners and frontline charities to stay abreast of the emerging challenges.
‘To reiterate my comments from an earlier statement, I want to thank everyone at Trinity House, and their families too, for adapting so capably and completely to the demands placed upon them by the extraordinary circumstances presented by COVID-19.
‘My gratitude extends to maritime sector workers everywhere, including our colleagues at our sister lighthouse authorities the Northern Lighthouse Board and Irish Lights and our partner maritime charities. They have all demonstrated time and again that they are worthy of the ‘key worker’ plaudits—whether at sea or on shore—and our continuing recognition, applause and support.’
Captain Ian McNaught
Deputy Master, Trinity House.
Illustration: https://www.trinityhouse.co.uk/galleries/lightvessels ©.
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has welcomed the commitment of 12 countries to facilitate crew changes and achieve key worker designation for seafarers, following a virtual ministerial summit hosted by the UK Government on 9 July. This step represents significant progress to help resolve a growing crisis facing the maritime industry, and enable hundreds of thousands of stranded seafarers to go home or join ships.
In a joint statement, representatives from 12 countries expressed their deep concern about the current crisis and acknowledged that “the inability of ship operators worldwide to conduct ship’s crew changes is the single most pressing maritime operational challenge to the safe and efficient movement of global trade”.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions and border closures imposed by Governments around the world have caused significant hurdles to crew changes and left hundreds of thousands of seafarers stranded onboard ships, or unable to join ships. It is currently estimated that at least 200,000 seafarers worldwide are stranded on ships and require immediate repatriation, and a similar number urgently need to join ships to replace them. This has led to a growing humanitarian crisis, in addition to concerns that seafarer fatigue and mental health issues may lead to serious maritime accidents. There are also concerns about the continuity of the global supply chain.
French container carrier, CMA CGM has announced its intention of launching a new product called Round the Africa (RTA) service to add to and complement the current 31 CMA CGM services already operating to sub-Saharan Africa.
A bit of a misnomer, the service is unique in terms of providing a direct service from Asia to Senegal and Sierra Leone along with best transit times, as well as calls to other selected West African ports.
Dakar is reached weekly from Ningbo in 35 days, from Nansha in 32 days. Freetown (Sierra Leone) is reached in 35 days from Nansha. The service offer to Tema (Ghana) is improved with three weekly departures.
‘Our exporters from West Africa will benefit of excellent transit time and direct service to China. Shanghai is reached in 29 days from Abidjan, 31 days from Tema, 36 days from Freetown and 39 days from Dakar,’ says the line in a statement.
One is left to assume the Round Africa part comes from the ships returning to Asia via the Cape of Good Hope.
Round the Africa service rotation is as follows:
Shanghai – Ningbo – Nansha – Singapore – Malta – Tanger – Dakar – Freetown – Tema – Abidjan – Port Kelang – Shanghai