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.
Shipping is vital to the world supply chain. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that all personnel involved are protected from infection, including those onboard ships and shore personnel who may need to temporarily go on ships or interact with seafarers.
IMO has circulated World Health Organization (WHO) guidance on the safe and effective use of personal protective equipment (PPE), to support decisions on use of PPE to minimize the risks of COVID-19 infection for seafarers, marine personnel, fishing vessel personnel, passengers and others on board ships.
This guidance also applies to shore personnel intending to go on board (such as pilots, port workers, port State control officers, ships’ agents and so forth); and when any of these people interact with each other.
The PPE guidance is available here per CL.No.4204/Add.15: Coronavirus (COVID 19) - Personal protective equipment http://www.imo.org/en/MediaCentre/HotTopics/Documents/COVID%20CL%204204%20adds/Circular%20Letter%20No.4204-Add.15%20-%20Coronavirus%20(Covid%2019)%20-%20Personal%20Protective%20Equipment.pdf
To support decision making and risk assessment, IMO has also circulated practical measures to address COVID-19 risks for all people involved on ships and in ports when they may need to interact with each other, available here per CL.No.4204/Add.16: Coronavirus (COVID 19) – COVID-19 related guidelines for ensuring a safe shipboard interface between ship and shore-based personnel
Recognizing that there are differences in national requirements, the guidelines propose a straightforward system to evaluate the risks and communicate the control measures that will be put in place, by mutual agreement, to reduce infection risk. They also propose simple steps and precautions to take if attendance onboard a ship is unavoidable. These include minimising the number of persons attending; using outer walkways rather than access through the crew accommodation; frequently cleaning hands and maintaining social distancing.
The COVID-19 related guidelines for ensuring a safe shipboard interface between ship- and shore- based personnel were proposed by a broad cross section of global industry associations in consultative status with IMO: ICS, IAPH, BIMCO, IACS, IFSMA, IMPA, INTERTANKO, P&I Clubs, CLIA, INTERCARGO, InterManager, IPTA, FONASBA, and WSC.
Account was also taken of input from the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC) and the International Support Vessel Owners’ Association (ISOA).
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