THE Asian Shipowners’ Association held its 29th Annual General Meeting on 28 May, hosted by David Parmeter, who is chairman of both ASA and Maritime Industry of Australia Limited. The meeting was also attended by representatives from all ASA member associations.

The meeting was held online, rather than in Darwin as previously envisaged, because of COVID-19. It covered a broad range of topics including a number of “big issues” detailed below.

In his opening address, Mr Parmeter stressed the importance of shipping which continues to carry over 90% of global trade despite COVID-19 and encouraged everyone to stay strong and united to combat against world’s invisible enemy – the coronavirus.

“As the COVID-19 sweeps across the globe, seafarers continue to work tirelessly ensuring the world supply chain is functioning without massive disruption,” ASA said in a statement.

“But right now, over 150,000 seafarers who have completed their contractual tours of duty, are unable to get home because of various governments’ travel restrictions.  This figure is increasing every single day.”

The ASA strongly urges all governments to implement the recent IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.14 – Recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic – at their earliest opportunities, especially those countries which are major sources of seafarers and those which have been hubs for crew changes.

“This shall eliminate the risk of interruptions to the transport of vitally needed food, clothing, energy fuels and other essentials for the world economy and the people’s daily life,” said ASA.

“Whilst the human and economic cost of the pandemic is horrifying, there is at least one silver lining for shipping. This is that carbon emissions from shipping have plummeted.”

The ASA stresses that, as it emerges from the pandemic, the shipping industry must continue efforts towards carbon-free shipping that are practical and implementable.

The ASA strongly welcomes India’s recent ratification of the HKC, which is a major move towards “green ship-recycling” of obsolete vessels.  The ASA emphasises that it is essential to continue motivating China and Bangladesh to sign up for this important convention and encourages the Asian shipowners to promote usage of HKC compliant yards, for boosting an early enactment of the HKC.

The ASA notes the recent toll hikes of the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal, two major waterways on the globe underpinning the world trade.  Especially regarding the Panama Canal’s new charges introduced in February 2020, the ASA expresses its dismay at the hasty introduction (with the only one month’s advance notice and without any prior consultations with the users) despite its significant financial impacts on the industry.

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“The ASA urges the Canal’s administrator to listen to its users who are calling for the reconsiderations and modifications of its charges.”

On the issue of piracy, the ASA noted increasingly frequent violent attacks on vessels and their crews by pirates infesting in the Gulf of Guinea (off the West Africa).

“The pirates have become more and more emboldened with every successful attacks.  The local governments have, so far, been unable to put an end to this menace,” ASA said.

The human cost is enormous and the cost of vessel callings at many West African ports are escalating due to soaring insurance premiums and added securities onboard ships.

“This will inhibit the trade to the area which is clearly an extraordinary problem for the countries and their people.

“The ASA therefore calls upon the IMO as a matter of urgency to add this issue to all its high-level meetings and to urge its member states in the region to take their actions to curtail the threats facing by merchant vessels calling at ports in the region,” ASA said.

Tadaaki Naito, president of Japanese Shipowners’ Association was appointed as the 30th ASA chairman.  Tae Soon Chung, chairman of Korea Shipowners’ Association was appointed as the vice-chairman of ASA.

The next ASA AGM will be held in Japan.

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