Major global manufacturers and retailers of essential consumer goods, including food and hygiene products, have warned that anti-COVID restrictions in the maritime industry are “creating [a] huge disruption to global supply chains – including those for critical goods such as food and hygiene”.
Governments must ensure the continued supply of goods
In an open letter to António Guterres, the head of the United Nations, the 31 CEOs of global-scale consumer goods companies, have called upon world governments to “ensure the supply of critical goods [and] to support the global economy”.
The CEOs point to a variety of restrictions on maritime activities such as docking, ship inspections and the issue of ship sanitation certificates.
Adverse effect of crew changes highlighted
However, the global manufacturing and retailing CEOs particularly highlight the disruptive effect on supply chains of restrictions on crew changes.
Noting that hundreds of thousands of on-ship seafarers need to be relieved and hundreds of thousands more are waiting to join ships, the CEOs warned that government rules are significantly disrupting maritime operations and the global network of shipping.
“This has led to a major disruption of global supply chains, which are vital to manufacturers and retailers and their ability to produce and offer essential consumer goods, including food and hygiene products,” the CEOs said.
Supply chain interruption could push countries over the edge
Unilever’s Chief Supply Chain Officer Marc Engel added that COVID safe crew changes are needed without delay.
“When the ships stop, so does everything else. We are now close to an entirely avoidable breaking point which could ripple out through the economy. Even a temporary interruption could push companies and countries over the edge,” he said.
Shipping Australia points out that, until now, shipping lines have continued to provide good service to Australia. “But the crisis is still building,” warned CEO Rod Nairn. The problem needs to be solved NOW!”
A call to implement the IMO protocols
The consumer goods CEOs have called upon governments to ensure the supply of critical goods and to support the international economy by:
- implementing the IMO’s crew change protocols;
- classifying seafarers as key workers;
- introducing a test and trace regime to ensure crew changes;
- ensuring that seafarers can access personal protective equipment;
- ensuring that seafarers spend no more than 11 months on board to mitigate fatigue and mental health;
- limiting any unavoidable crew contract extensions;
- allowing flexibility on competency and medical certificates for seafarers and sanitation certificates for ships; and
- by creating a framework for enhanced coordination… to more effectively manage the issues.
Governments must act now to ensure continuity of supply
In concluding, the CEOs stated that “international trade and global supply chains are independent on the smooth operation of maritime transportation. As members of The Consumer Goods Forum, we support your efforts to encourage governments to act now to ensure we can continue to serve our customers with the essential goods they need and want”.
The signatory CEOs to the letter to the UN head up international manufacturing and retailing companies such as Danone, Heineken, Carrefoure, Kellogg Company, Barrilla Group, Pepsi, Tesco, Mondelez International, Mars, Nestle, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, GSK Consumer Healthcare, Proctor & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive.