Have you recently tried to buy a computer, Peloton exercise bike or new furniture? If so, you may well have experienced an unexpectedly delayed delivery. You’d be in the same boat as millions of other consumers and corporate buyers in the western world. Though your order may have been stuck in one of the many thousands of containers on the Ever Given, the ship held up in the Suez Canal for months, the most likely reason for delayed deliveries is the global shortage of containers. The metal boxes that make global trade possible are in very short supply – with a domino effect on supply chains worldwide. And it all began with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the question of who is and isn’t designated a “key worker” has been a difficult debate, with many arguing that essential services go far, far beyond those provided by doctors and nurses. Although the UK government now officially recognizes seafarers as key workers, it’s arguable that the general public has little idea of the contributions made by these workers to the ongoing maintenance of the supply chain.
As speed to market is currently critical in tackling the pandemic, COVID-19 vaccines are only shipped by air at the moment. In the future, delivery by sea may become a viable alternative. We show the potential that shipping the vaccine by sea holds.
“Ninety percent of everything” was how Rose George titled her 2013 book on the shipping industry. That is how important the world’s merchant fleet is to global trade. Yet when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, politicians the world over were seemingly unaware of the significance of cargo-ship crews’ work. Unlike cross-border lorry drivers, airline pilots, and cabin crew, seafarers were not designated as key workers – with tragic consequences for the sailors and their families in countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and India.
Stranded at sea
The travel restrictions imposed by governments around the world have made crew changes and repatriation of seafarers massively difficult. The result has been a humanitarian crisis of unheard-of proportions – and one made worse by a widespread lack of interest in the seafarers’ plight. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) estimates that around 400,000 seafarers were stranded on their ships in December 2020 – unable to make their way home and many months past the end of their original contracts. A similar number of seafarers were stuck at home, prevented from joining their ships and earning much-needed money to support their families in countries without welfare networks.
Cruise ships became the first hot-spots of the deadly Coronavirus, with luxury yachts and mega cruises turning into large quarantine centers. FleetMon reported on the developments since the beginning of the pandemic. Governments all around the world resorted to imposing a strict ‘No Cruise’ ban.
With COVID-19 impacting all sectors of the economy, the cruise industry has been particularly brought to its knees.
With the figures we’re going to show you now, it becomes apparent that the sheer scale of this global shutdown is unlike something the industry has ever witnessed, easily dwarfing global events like 9/11 or stock market crashes.
Hardly any other industry has been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the coronavirus spread in the winter months – traditionally a most popular time for sun-seeking senior citizens from the Northern Hemisphere – cruise ship passengers were infected in their thousands. Ships were refused entry in port after port and cruises abruptly cancelled to offload passengers fast. All upcoming cruises were cancelled and since March, the cruise industry has been in 100% lockdown. This blog looks at the situation in July 2020 and what the future might hold.
The initiative belongs to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Goodwill Maritime Ambassador for Bulgaria Capt. Andriyan Evtimov.
The purpose is to have the document signed online by at least 150,000 people – the same number of seafarers blocked by theCOVID-19 and then send it to the IMO member-state governments with an appeal for immediate and urgent measures to facilitate the movement of seafaring personnel.
Read about how the COVID19 pandemic induced the biggest oil price crash in history. And what is the impact on maritime shipping?
Economists are already referring to the global slump brought about by the coronavirus as the world’s worst-ever economic downturn – a “Greater Depression” that’s even worse than the Great Depression in 1929-32. With lockdowns, closed frontiers and stay-home restrictions reducing road, rail and air traffic to an absolute minimum and economic activity having slowed down to an almost standstill the world over, the global demand for oil has fallen through the floor. On April 20 the price of the May futures contract for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) plunged to never-experienced negative territory of minus $40. In other words, US oil producers actually had to pay people to buy or store their oil. Since that historic low, the price of WTI and Brent crude has recovered somewhat but still remains at levels not seen for decades. It’s a simple equation, basic supply-and-demand economics. With supply significantly outpacing demand in the global oil market, the price of “black gold” has slumped.