UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday asked for relief for seafarers on the occasion of World Maritime Day, which falls on Sept. 24.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the professionalism and sacrifice of the 2 million seafarers who serve on the world's merchant fleet, said Guterres in a message. "I remain very concerned about the growing humanitarian and safety crisis facing hundreds of thousands of these indispensable workers."
Physically and mentally exhausted, away from their families and loved ones, their time at sea has now been extended far beyond the standards stipulated in international conventions, with some tours of duty now stretching more than 17 months, he noted.
Fatigued seafarers cannot operate indefinitely, and disruptions to international shipping would have devastating consequences, he warned.
Guterres called on governments to address seafarers' plight by formally designating them and other marine personnel as "key workers", ensuring safe crew changes and implementing the protocols developed by UN agencies, as well as the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Workers' Federation, allowing stranded seafarers to be repatriated and others to join ships.
He called for a sustainable shipping industry.
Shipping will play a central role in achieving most, if not all, of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. But shipping activities must be balanced with the long-term health and biodiversity of the oceans, he said.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has developed global standards that support cleaner and greener shipping. Governments and the IMO must continue to work together to support the decarbonization of shipping and improved energy efficiency; the facilitation of shipping through increased digitalization; and efforts to ensure the sustainability and protection of the workforce, he said.
Shipping can and must continue to make its contribution to the global economy without upsetting nature's delicate balance. The maritime sector underpins world trade and will continue to be essential for building a sustainable future for the people and the planet, he said. Enditem