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.
Speaking in Istanbul, Simon Bennett, Deputy Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) warned on 3 April that avoiding overcapacity and unsustainably low freight rates is still a major challenge ten years after the massive downturn of 2008.
Mr Bennett said: ‘In that time shipping companies needed to show restraint when ordering new ships, to prevent stifling recovery. Yet the dark clouds of protectionism and slowing growth in key economies mean that the avoidance of over ordering is now more important than ever.’
Addressing an audience of shipowners and operators at the Global Maritime Summit 2019, organised in conjunction with the Turkish Chamber of Shipping, Mr Bennett acknowledged that individual operators would legitimately make their own individual business decisions regarding new tonnage. Our accompanying illustration has been kindly provided by ICS and the Turkish Chamber in support of the Global Maritime Summit 2019 ©.
He added: ‘Opinion is still divided on whether the rapid globalisation that has been experienced in the last 30 years may have run its course, and whether the slower rate of trade growth seen since the 2008 crisis represents some kind of permanent structural change. Certainly in 2019, the outlook for the global economy and thus demand for maritime transport appears to be worsening.
‘Ship ordering (in deadweight tonnage) fell 14% in 2018, about 17% below the average since the 2008 downturn. This suggests that many shipowners may indeed be resisting the temptation to over order and in early 2019, the worldwide shipping order book appeared to be stable at around 10% of the fleet. However, the reluctance of governments in Asia, where the vast majority of ships are built, to address overcapacity in the shipbuilding sector remains a serious issue.’
He went on to explain: ‘As well as the temptation to over order, decisions about when to recycle older ships are also fundamental to the equation. The good news is that a number of important regulatory uncertainties which have complicated decisions about when best to dispose of older ships are finally being resolved.
‘In particular this includes the implementation dates of the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention. And while the precise cost of compliance with the IMO sulphur regulations is still unknown, the situation should become clearer after January 2020 now that IMO has confirmed that the implementation date of the global sulphur cap is irrevocable.’
In conclusion Bennett reflected: ‘Notwithstanding the risks of uncertainty in the immediate years ahead, in the long term there is always cause to remain optimistic. The UN has revised its projections for population growth upwards to an incredible 8.6 billion in 2030 from 7.7 billion in 2018. Combined with seemingly unstoppable demand for higher living standards in emerging economies, this indicates that long term demand for international shipping should continue to increase significantly.’
ICS is also encouraged by the decision in 2018 by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to resume negotiations on an agreement to remove market distorting measures from shipbuilding that contribute to overcapacity. However, it remains to be seen whether China (which is not an OECD member) will take an active part.
Our picture shows a Carnival line up. Five Carnival ships are due in Durban in week commencing 24 May. (Photo: www.africaports.co.za )
No less than five Carnival Cruise ships are due to arrive in Durban between 26 and 28 May to take on bunkers and to restock depleted supplies.
These five ships are part of a group of 12 engaged in the humanitarian task of repatriating over 26,000 crew from the Carnival fleet and other companies, as well as personnel from entertainment centres ashore, who because of the coronavirus pandemic, have had their employment suddenly curtailed.
Hotel staff and entertainers
These are the entertainment staff, the onboard shop workers, beauty salon practitioners, waiters and bus boys, chefs and kitchen staff, cabin cleaners, pursers and front desk people all making up the staff working on board cruise ships.
With cruising curtailed these former employees are finally returning home to destinations like India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines after having remained on board their ships for more than two months, unable to go ashore or receive visitors ever since cruising operations were suspended in mid -March. Ahead they face another three or four weeks at sea before being allowed to disembark. However, there’s something of a problem.
Call to governments
IFSMA* calls upon Governments to adopt the ‘Framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the COVID-19 pandemic’ without delay to allow ship owners and management companies to change over their dangerously tired crews.
Governments must act now in order to avoid personal injury to, and mental breakdown of, seafarers and avoid the significant risk of accidents and consequential danger to life and the environment.
Concern at IFSMA
IFSMA is receiving an increasing number of reports from its ship masters’ associations around the world concerned for the welfare and safety of crews and the increased risk with which they are operating in an already high risk environment. Seafarers are feeling let down and abandoned by their Governments.
Following concerns from the maritime industry, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) issued a circular to all Member States, the UN and agencies and IGOs and NGOs in consultative status with IMO. This document concerned recommendations to Member States about measures to facilitate ship crew changes in seaports during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The IMO Secretary General has received a framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the pandemic, proposed by a cross-section of global industry associations in consultative status with the IMO, for example: ICS, IAPH, BIMCO, IFSMA, and P&I Clubs as well as the International Air Transport Association (IATA).