Sello Rasethab looks at freight transportation value chains  in the time of the coronavirus Photo: Supplied
Sello Rasethab looks at freight transportation value chains in the time of the coronavirus Photo: Supplied

Global maritime transport and coronavirus

By Sello Rasethaba Time of article published Mar 30, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - As the world battles the Covid-19 pandemic, the global maritime transport industry is playing a critical role in their response, according to Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, the secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad).

This was according to an article titled: “Coronavirus: Let's keep ships moving, ports open and cross-border trade flowing”.

Kituyi said: “A vast array of goods and commodities are transported by sea to meet the demands of industrial and manufacturing sectors, energy needs, as well as business and consumer requirements. This includes vital medical supplies, which are sorely needed at this time, and items that are necessary for the preservation of many jobs in manufacturing – without which modern society cannot function.”

The International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Workers’ Federation issued a Joint Open Letter to United Nations agencies appealing that “member states should be encouraged to engage immediately with their national shipowners’ association and national seafarers’ union, in order to find rapid solutions to this serious problem which otherwise risks impeding global efforts to address the Covid-19 pandemic.”

According to Unctad’s Review of Maritime Transport (Series), “Around 80 percent of the volume of international trade in goods is carried by sea, and the percentage is even higher for most developing countries.”

The director-general of World Health Organisation and the secretary-general of International Maritime Organisation jointly issued a statement to assist States in ensuring that health measures are implemented in ways that minimise unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade. 

The statement called “upon all States to respect the requirements of “free pratique” for ships(IHR (2005) article 28) and the principles of proper care for all travellers and the prevention of unnecessary delays to ships and to persons and property on board, while recognising the need to prevent the introduction or spread of disease.”

The global supply chain includes a sequence of operations ranging from the extraction of raw materials, the assembly of intermediate goods, to the distribution to consumption markets.

The world should not allow the Covid-19 pandemic to disturb freight transportation value chains.

When G20 leaders met virtually last week, U. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged G20 leaders to adopt a war-time plan to tackle the pandemic.

Guterres said, “We are at war with a virus — and not winning it despite dramatic measures by countries to seal their borders, shutter businesses and enforce home isolation for well over a quarter of the world’s population.”

As international countries adopt measures to tacle the Covid-19 crises, South Africa has also implemented measures.

Minister of Transport  Fikile Mbalula said recently, “The National Traffic Police and South African Police Service have closed the N1 North from Carousel towards Limpopo, as a measure to enforce compliance. Only essential traffic and commercial vehicles are allowed passage.” 

This will ensure that freight transportation value chains are not disturbed

and is in line with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s appeal “to other countries not to restrict the import into Africa of badly needed manufactured goods, such as medical supplies.”

Sello Mashao Rasethaba is the chairman of the South African United Business Confederation (SAUBC) and writes in his personal capacity.


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