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COVID-19 and its impact on seafarer unemployment

Acknowledging 90 per cent of world trade being facilitated by sea is not enough

2021 started bumpy with the pandemic since 2020. COVID-19 caused a myriad of maritime issues such as crew change crisis, labour shortage and cargo delays. It is now mid-2021 and the industry has more issues to deal with; skyrocketed rates, stricter border restrictions and vessel shortages to contend with the overwhelming cargo quantities.

A much-needed change in perspectives
Shipment delays can be fatal to world trade and countries can expect low inflation resulting in gradual unemployment. Any halts can cause a chain of disastrous reactions which will impact world economies; which include unemployment and foreign investments. Adding insult to injury are persistent high spot rates where cargo owners and charterers are compelled to take the chance and book consignments without guaranteeing equipment availability and successful deliveries.

The current predicament confronting world trade is a huge warning of an impending unemployment catastrophe. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) predicted at least 220 million people are expected to be jobless in 2021, surpassing pre-COVID-19 levels. The United Nations agency forecasted an improvement of 205 million cases of unemployment in 2022. For the record, pre-pandemic unemployment was at 187 million in 2019. According to ILO, that equates to a global unemployment rate of 6.3 per cent this year, falling to 5.7 per cent in 2022 but still higher than pre-pandemic rate of 5.4 per cent in 2019.

In its World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2021 report, ILO said that employment growth would be insufficient to make up for the losses suffered until at least 2023. Stefan Kuehn, an ILO economist and lead author of the report, said that the true impact on the labour market was even greater when reduced working hours imposed on many workers and other factors were accounted for.

The employment rate can be improved if the right measures are taken. For maritime, countries are gradually implementing their own vaccination programmes. If perspectives can be tweaked, shipowners and operators can always view vaccination costs as an investment. It is effective insurance against disruptions from border restrictions; a vaccination certificate is a ticket to transit through ports and crew change.


Marine Online News Team
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