Disruption of Ocean Supply Chains Due to COVID-19 to Cause Significant Global Shortages

New York, United States of America

Governments urged to work together to keep ocean-related supply chains moving

UNITED NATIONS, New York, 5 May 2020 — Delays and disruptions in the supply of goods produced at and shipped by sea will cause significant shortages if Governments do not work together to keep global ocean-related supply chains moving during the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations Global Compact warned today.

Almost 90 per cent of the global trade of goods is carried by vessels. A critically urgent problem concerns changeover of essential personnel needed for safe and continuous operations, including 100,000 seafarers finishing their contracts every month. Travel restrictions and grounded airplanes have rendered routine crew changeovers virtually impossible.

Ocean-based supply chains are also challenged. Offshore operations are essential to global energy supplies, and mariculture and capture fisheries constitute vitally important sources of food and animal feeds

The UN Global Compact today published a set of recommendations for urgent political action to keep global ocean-related supply chains moving. The recommendations are a consolidation of the work of the COVID-19 Task Force initiated by the initiative's Action Platform for Sustainable Ocean Business, consisting of representatives from internationally leading companies, industry associations, financial institutions, UN specialized agencies and academic institutions.

While epidemiological data and risk assessments show that COVID-19 measures continue to be needed, closed borders, curtailed travel, quarantines and other restrictions are now threatening cross-border flows of food, fuel, medical supplies, raw materials and products needed to support the health and well-being of all people. Without immediate and coordinated political actions, significant delays and disruptions are likely to appear within a very short period of time. 

“The scale, complexity and urgency of the problem call for a comprehensive, systemic and coordinated approach at the global level,” says Sturla Henriksen, Special Ocean Advisor for the UN Global Compact, adding that “an absence of decisive policy responses at the global level will likely trigger ripple effects which will reverberate through national economies and impede cross-border supplies of critical goods.”

“With 150,000 seafarers now trapped at sea, we need a solution to be implemented soon. We welcome the report from the UN Global Compact Sustainable Ocean Business Action Platform which provides clear recommendations to governments and the UN system. Industry and civil society have stepped up, done the homework and developed protocols. We now need governments to hear the call and work together to address the issue for the sake of over 1.2 million seafarers and to ensure that the vital supplies that we all rely upon continue to be delivered,” said Guy Platten, Secretary General, International Chamber of Shipping.

The set of 14 recommended actions represents a comprehensive, global approach to ensure the continuing safe and efficient function of ocean-related supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

  • Establishing a dedicated Ocean Supply Chain Task Force championed by a coalition of willing governments;
  • Adopting an internationally-recognized "key worker’" status system and enabling unhindered movement across international borders of personnel critical to the safety and integrity of the ocean-related supply chains; 
  • Pursuing a consistent, uniform and evidenced-based approach to granting exemption measures across marine jurisdictions on vessel and personnel certification and classification;
  • Establishing a set of indicators that could serve to identify actual and potential disruptions in the ocean-related supply chains.

Several of the organizations and companies participating in the Task Force have already issued separate statements in support of the recommendations:

“The International Maritime Organization whole-heartedly supports the recommendations of the UN Global Compact Sustainable Ocean Business Action Platform.” – Heike Deggim, Director, Maritime Safety Division, International Maritime Organisation (IMO)

“We welcome the report from the UN Global Compact Sustainable Ocean Business Action Platform which provides clear recommendations to government and the UN system.” – Guy Platten, Secretary General, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS)

“We strongly support the initiative of the Sustainable Ocean Business Action Platform to maintain the integrity of global supply chains.” – Patrick Verhoeven, Managing Director, Policy and Strategy, International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH)

“I am very happy with this excellent report and its recommendations. This Global Compact initiative is very important to the food and agricultural sector under the present COVID-19 circumstances” – Árni M. Mathiesen Special Advisor, DDN, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)

“IOGP are pleased to support UN’s global leadership with insights from the energy sector, as we all pull together to supply the world with its critical needs at this difficult time.” – Olav Skar, Safety Director, International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP)

“We strongly endorse the recommendations in this report.” – Rolf Thore Roppestad, Chief Executive Officer, Gard AS

Through the active engagement of a broad panel of leading experts, the UN Global Compact has produced this insightful report and associated list of recommendations, which I fully support.” – Thomas Peacock, Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Please click here to see the recommendations and endorsements in full.

For media inquiries and interview requests, please contact:

Sturla Henriksen, +47 911-222-55 henriksen@unglobalcompact.org

Erik Giercksky, +47 996-474-55 giercksky@unglobalcompact.org

About the Sustainable Ocean Business Action Platform

The Sustainable Ocean Business Action Platform of the United Nations Global Compact convenes leading actors from business, academia and Government institutions to determine how ocean industries can advance progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The work of the platform also builds upon the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact, which outline business responsibilities in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.

About the United Nations Global Compact

As a special initiative of the UN Secretary-General, the United Nations Global Compact is a call to companies everywhere to align their operations and strategies with ten universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. Launched in 2000, the mandate of the UN Global Compact is to guide and support the global business community in advancing UN goals and values through responsible corporate practices. With more than 10,000 companies and 3,000 non-business signatories based in over 160 countries, and more than 60 Local Networks, it is the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world.    

For more information, follow @globalcompact on social media and visit our website at unglobalcompact.org