KUALA LUMPUR: The Asian Shipowners’ Association (ASA) is urging all governments to implement, at the earliest opportunities, the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This would eliminate the risk of interruptions to the transport of vitally needed food, clothing, energy fuels and other essentials for the world economy and the people’s daily life, it said in a statement following its annual general meeting (AGM) that was held online yesterday.

The framework is contained in IMO’s circular letter no. 4204/addendum 14 dated March 5.

“As the Covid-19 sweeps across the globe, seafarers continue to work tirelessly ensuring the world supply chain is functioning without massive disruption.

“But right now, over 150,000 seafarers who have completed their contractual tours of duty, are unable to get home because of various governments’ travel restrictions and the figure is increasing every single day,” the association said.

The ASA pointed out that shipping remained an important sector which continued to carry over 90 per cent of the global trade despite Covid-19 pandemic.

It encouraged its members to stay strong and united to combat against the world’s invisible enemy, the coronavirus.

At its 29th AGM today, the association discussed issues arises in shipping industry amid the Covid-19 crisis. The meeting was held online rather than in Darwin as previously envisaged.

According to the ASA, the meeting covered a broad range of topics including the five “big issues”, namely seafarers’ repatriation during Covid-19, navigation towards a sustainable shipping, the Hong Kong Convention (HKC), stability of toll system in the global waterways and piracy threats in West Africa.

It said while the human and economic cost of the pandemic was horrifying, there was at least one silver lining for shipping: the plummeting carbon emissions from shipping.

The association also noted the recent toll hikes of the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal, two major waterways on the globe underpinning the world trade, and expressed its dismay at the hasty introduction despite its significant financial impacts on the industry.

The ASA urged the Canal’s Administrator to listen to its users who are calling for the reconsiderations and modifications of its charges.

On piracy threats in West Africa, the ASA said violent attacks on vessels and their crews by pirates infesting in the Gulf of Guinea, off the West Africa have become increasingly frequent but the local governments have, so far, been unable to put an end to this menace.

“We therefore call upon the IMO as a matter of urgency to add this issue to all its high-level meetings and to urge its member states in the region to take their actions to curtail the threats facing by merchant vessels calling at ports in the region,” said the association.

During the meeting, Japanese Shipowners’ Association president Tadaaki Naito was appointed as the 30th ASA chairman while Korea Shipowners’ Association chairman Tae Soon Chung was appointed as the vice-chairman.

The next ASA AGM would be held in Japan, it added. – Bernama