Covid-19 Update - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:51 pm on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Labour 12:51 pm, 25th June 2020

My Lords, the Minister is probably not aware that today is the International Day of the Seafarer, recognising the efforts of 1.8 million seafarers—of many nations, manning 96,000 ships that carry 80% of world trade, valued at $7 trillion—who ensure that the global economy continues to function. Yet that very trade is in crisis because of the impact of the Wuhan virus restrictions on Merchant Navy crews. Because of the virus, more than 400,000 sailors are stranded by travel restrictions that bar crew from disembarking to return to their home country or from travelling to a port where their ship is waiting for a crew change. Many seafarers have had to remain at sea for over 15 months and ships are beginning to refuse to sail. Will the United Kingdom take the lead in getting other nations to designate seafarers as key workers who can travel without restrictions when leaving or joining a vessel, creating safe areas in airports for their transit and accepting official maritime documents as proof of identity? The global economy and the financial recovery post pandemic are totally reliant on maritime trade, yet that trade is at present collapsing. A global economic disaster is looming unless nations take some certain action. The UK, as a great maritime nation with world shipping run from London, should take the lead.