Before delving into other maritime issues, please permit me to congratulate all seafarers for their great work at sea during the Covid – 19 pandemic. The World Maritime Day was celebrated globally on 30 September 2021. This year’s theme is “Seafarers: At the Core of shipping’s future.” The objective of this year’s celebration is to extend the visibility of seafarers by focusing on the vital roles they play in the world’s oceans. Seafarers constitute an essential part of the shipping industry globally.
The shipping industry transports more than 80 percent of global trade including vital medical supplies, food and other basic goods that are crucial to Covid – 19 response and recovery worldwide. The world has seen how seafarers have dedicated their valuable time during the pandemic to ensure that the global supply chains keep functioning optimally to deliver essential goods to most nations. As an old sea dog (sailor), I salute the seafaring community and all stakeholders of the maritime industry on this significant occasion.
One may wonder why the International Maritime Organization (IMO) chose this year’s theme. It is because sailors face a humanitarian crisis at sea. During the Covid – 19 lockdowns in most parts of the world, sailors were unable to go ashore from their respective ships, they operated contracts extended by many months because of the pandemic. It is for this reason that some maritime experts and public intellectuals acknowledged the role of seafarers in the shipping business, advocating that governments ought to designate seafarers as essential workers, while ensuring that safe crew changes can take place.
Shipping, according to the United Nations (UN), is the most efficient and cost – effective method of international transportation for most goods; it facilitates commerce and helps to create prosperity among nations and peoples. For many years, seafarers have sacrificed generously, being stranded at sea for days as their contracts were being extended by many months. Once a sailor stays too long at sea, seasickness sets in. seasickness is a form of motion sickness. When you are in a car, you can stop and get out. But in open sea, no such luck.
One may feel trapped, and this worry is yet another factor making someone more likely to succumb to seasickness. Today, many seafarers experience seasickness to various degrees, usually for the first two to three days of almost every trip. Naval history tells us that even famous sailors, including Admiral Nelson, Christopher Columbus and others were afflicted. The best way to tackle seasickness is to simply sleep it off. But when you are on watch at sea, you must be at your duty station. You may either be in the machinery control room or the enclosed bridge. Or, any other part of the ship.
With sea robbery, piracy, marine accidents, and Covid – 19 pandemic, one can imagine the experience seafarers are going through globally in the maritime environment
As Covid -19 mutates, it has resulted into shortage of shipping containers globally. Thus, freight costs are rising, which maritime economists believe will result in higher prices for consumer goods. This is of concern to many business analysts because supply issues will have a negative impact on inflation. It is not that there aren’t enough shipping containers in the world; it is that the shipping containers are in the wrong spots at the wrong time.
What maritime experts have observed is that in the last 18 months or thereabout there is a build – up of containers in places they are not supposed to be. The major causes are the pandemic restrictions and port congestion. For instance, there are reports that Nigeria has over more than 5000 shipping containers within the country coupled with port congestion in Lagos where about 70 percent of imports are shipped into the country.
Many ships are already running behind schedule because of congestion at various seaports globally. So, most ships have left their shipping containers behind rather than wait for many days to load them back onboard. With shipping containers piling up at major import centers, their supply dwindled at major export hubs. What is the solution? Make more shipping containers? It may not be necessary to avoid a glut in shipping containers worldwide. But some industry practitioners have accused shipping container makers of keeping supply low to drive up prices. How long will the shipping container last?
This could be anyone’s guess. But industry experts think the shipping container shortage will drag into early 2022. Many maritime scholars are of the view that there will be sufficient shipping containers for trade sometime in 2022. In defense of their view, this group of experts considered maritime incidents such as the Suez Canal blockage by EVER GIVEN or the closure of some ports due to force majeure. One can see that both the open ocean and the littoral are environments hostile to seafarers.
With sea robbery, piracy, marine accidents, and COVID – 19 pandemic, one can imagine the experience seafarers are going through globally in the maritime environment. As we celebrate Nigeria’s 61st Independence Anniversary and the 2021 World Maritime Day, we wish all seafarers fair wind and following sea. And may their anchors hold in the storms of life, when the clouds unfold their wings of strife. When the strong tides lift and the anchor cable strain, I join numerous families and well wishers to pray that the anchors of our seafarers do not drift but remains firm. Thank you.