By Heritage Sanmi Lawal
It is no longer news that the novel corona virus (Covid-19) which was first discovered in Wuhan City of China sometime in December 2019, has now become a global epidemic which has affected every sector of world development.
Meetings have moved to the digital space; movement has been restricted and there is a looming danger of global recession. It is important to note at this point that the maritime sector is not left out as one of the areas of development affected.
As predicted by many, it is expected that COVID-19 will be the defining threat trend of the year, which will shape several trends within the maritime sector especially in manpower, navigation and financial profits as discussed in this paper.
IMPLICATIONS IN MANPOWER, NAVIGATION AND FINANCIAL PROFITS
Shortage of manpower is one major threat to maritime activities. This is because without the appropriate number of specialized staff, activities will be delayed and restricted. Unfortunately, the pandemic has caused a drastic change in people’s willingness to work.
Families have decided to seek refuge in their homes to avoid falling sick, seafarers have decided to move to where their families are and above all, movement has been restricted in major cities.
As a result, strict restrictions have been imposed on crew disembarkation, shore leave and substitution, affecting around 100,000 seafarers per month. To avoid a situation of perpetual manpower shortage leading to reduced productivity, it is implied that a strategic approach will be taken to crew changeovers, resupply, repairs and maintenance as well as certification and licensing of seafarers.
Regarding navigation, the arrival of Covid-19 has disrupted movement all over the world. An estimated 1.5 million truck drivers have gone to their native places and there are a lot of restrictions on inter-state and intra-state movement.
This also caused a spike in freight rates ranging from 15 per cent to nearly 80 per cent. According to World Trade Organization, maritime transport carries around 90% of world trade, so it is vital that Governments facilitate the continuing operation of shipping, and ports under their jurisdiction, to allow the transport of marine cargoes so that supply chains are not disrupted and to allow the global economy, and society as a whole, to continue to function throughout the pandemic.
The International Maritime Organization in their recommendation gave guidelines regarding providing access to berths in ports, measures to facilitate crew changes in ports, measures to facilitate port (and related) operations and measures to ensure health protection in ports.
Financially, the outbreak is already estimated to be costing the shipping industry $350million weekly in lost revenues globally, according to the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). ICS estimates that over 350,000 boxes have been removed from global trade as a result of the pandemic.
Shipping rates and charges have increased and ship financing has significantly dropped. Before Covid-19 cases began to rise in Nigeria for example, several investors made promises towards investing in Nigeria’s maritime sector.
Now it is clear that those promises may not be fulfilled as a number of people are currently experiencing what we may call “erosion of wealth” and poor expectations of future profitability of investment spending.
In the words of the Union for the Mediterranean Secretary General, Nasser Kamel, “The maritime industry is playing an essential role in the short-term emergency response to the pandemic, by facilitating the transport of vital commodities and products, thus sustaining jobs, international trade, and global economy.”
The ship ignoring the maritime sector has sailed, now is the time for the government to get on board to develop the maritime sector.
Heritage Sanmi Lawal is a 500 level law Student of Obafemi Awolowo University. She is a member of the Maritime Law Students’ Society, Obafemi Awolowo University.