Tue, November 30, 2021


More than 200,000 seafarers stranded due to Covid-19 pandemic: International Maritime Organisation

SINGAPORE - More than 200,000 seafarers worldwide are either still stranded on ships or waiting to board them as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage on, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Kitack Lim said on Friday (April 23).

While things have gotten better since the start of the year, these maritime workers, who do not have the luxury of working from home, need to be recognised as key workers and be vaccinated so they can move across borders, he added.

At the same time, Mr Lim said their plight should also motivate the industry to do more to digitalise their operations. This, in turn, will make shipping more efficient and reduce both unnecessary wait time and emissions.

"Seafarers cannot work from home, unlike many of us who have seen the benefits of technology or remote work. Shipping needs digitalisation," he said.

Mr Lim was speaking virtually on Friday at the opening of the IMO-Singapore Future of Shipping Conference, where more than 450 registered delegates discussed ways to decarbonise the industry.

The event falls on the last day of the 15th Singapore Maritime Week, which is themed around decarbonisation, digitalisation and talent attraction.

Participants, who include shipping company chief executive officers, engineers, researchers and port operators, discussed how best to transition from conventional marine fuels to zero-carbon fuels such as hydrogen, ammonia and methanol.

Although these are not yet commercially viable, IMO targets aim to cut the sector's greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2050 and achieve net zero as soon as possible within the century.

The shipping sector currently accounts for 2 per cent to 3 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Calling the fight against climate change "the challenge of our time", Mr Lim said: "We all have a part to play in addressing challenges... to keep pace with the demands of the global economy and the expectations for sustainable growth. The maritime world needs to be at the forefront of transformational change."

He added: "We need to facilitate decarbonisation and enhance digitalisation for safer, more environmentally friendly and efficient shipping."

He took the chance to advocate for a single digital portal through which all vessel-related transactions at ports can be processed - a new way of operations IMO is pushing for.

He said a committee is working on an IMO convention to make use of such portals compulsory. "The challenge is to ensure it is fully implemented across all nations and all ports... Preparation for this is essential," he said.

Singapore recently launched a trial of such a system called digitalPORT @ SG phase two. It gives users real-time updates on ships' estimated arrival and departure times as well as their port activities.

With the aid of the system, ships will no longer have to rush to wait at ports for their turn. Scheduling will be tighter and services like bunkering can be effectively deployed on time.

Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a pre-recorded message that Singapore will partner the IMO in helping developing countries digitise their port clearance processes.

"The merits of a maritime single window are inherently constrained if only adopted at one port... Last month, the IMO invited interested member states to apply to participate, and a suitable pilot country will be selected soon," he said.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, the Singapore Shipping Association and non-profit organisation Global Compact Network Singapore will also jointly train the industry in carbon accounting, as well as managing and lowering emissions.

Published : April 24, 2021

By : Clement Yong/The Straits Times/ANN