"To reach a port, we must set sail — Sail, not tie at anchor — Sail, not drift." Franklin D. Roosevelt
Every year the International Maritime Organization (IMO) celebrates World Maritime Day. The exact date is left to each Government to decide in regard to when the celebrations will take place. World Maritime Day is usually celebrated during the last week in September and to be more specific, the last Thursday of the month.
Yesterday, September 24th the globe celebrated World Maritime Day. A day that is dedicated on promoting and raising awareness about the importance of shipping safety and security as well as marine environment. Whilst at the same time recognising the professionalism and sacrifices of the two million seafarers who serve on the world's merchant fleet.
This year the theme is "Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet" which focuses on providing an opportunity to raise awareness of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The shipping industry, with the support of the IMO regulatory framework, has already started the transition towards a sustainable future.
During these unprecedented times, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability of shipping services to continue undisrupted to transport more than 80% of the world trade which includes food, energy and medical supplies across the continents played and continues to play a critical role in overcoming this pandemic. The real heroes are actually the hundreds of thousands of seafarers who have been working all these months to make sure the ships continue their routes and supplies are delivered to nations on time. These people, though, have been away from their families for months, facing the dangers not only of the oceans but also of the pandemic.
In his statement about the World Maritime Day, Commissioner Vălean called from Brussels, for support and safe return of seafarers stating that "On World Maritime Day, I want to raise attention to the role seafarers have been playing during the pandemic. They ensure that trade keeps flowing, our economy does not stop and that ships continue to carry food, medicines and other goods to ports throughout the EU and the world. Ensuring seafarers' well-being and safe working conditions is a key priority for us. With support from the EU, the International Maritime Organization adopted, on 21 September, a resolution urging States to support repatriations of seafarers and give them access to medical care. For this year's World Maritime Day, I call on all States to implement the IMO resolution and swiftly lift restrictions for crew changes; I also recall the duty of shipowners to help seafarers return home to their families."1
It is a fact that the pandemic has brought many challenges all over the world and shipping companies are becoming agile and adaptable to this changing situation, while they acknowledge that focusing on building effective response strategies and plans is essential.
To successfully adapt in the challenges of the new reality, shipping companies must ensure that they have such relevant policies and procedures in order for the risks to be identified at an early stage. At the same time, every shipping company must have a designed scenario planning process as well as a strategic plan involving their legal or regulatory requirements.
For example, shipping companies must ensure that specific guidelines are well communicated with their staff onboard so as to minimise any risk of infection. In the case of an infection, then, through such policies, the person who might be infected would timely be detected and isolated following all relevant procedures.
Now, more than ever, shipping companies need to remain efficient and operative so as to continue the transportation of critical cargo across continents. To achieve this, as the globe is on a hold with the pandemic and the possibility of new lockdowns, stakeholders of the shipping business, such as employees, suppliers, customers, investors and banks, have a great responsibility in remaining fully updated and need to show their engagement while we see that organisations' operations are transitioning to a crisis management mode.
That is why Head Offices have a critical role to play from now on as operations must find the right balance so as to continue offering support to their respective operations, and especially guiding the voyagers and seafarers, while making sure that safety of the workforce is kept while compliance exists based on all legal guidelines.
Although the shipping sector may be operating in uncharted waters as we speak, we remain positive that this too shall pass and soon the oceans will be filled with their trusted companions which serve not only the industry but humanity as well.
The firm has been offering shipping related legal services to the local and international industry for almost 30 years and is continuously recommended by reputable international directories for its shipping practice. Our offices in 9 cities and our strong synergies worldwide, further allow us to have a wider international outreach in serving clients, from all corners around the globe.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.