AT the 18 May annual general meeting of the Asian Shipowners’ Association, delegates discussed the continuing difficulties of crew changes for seafarers due to the pandemic.

Tadaaki Naito, ASA chairman said, “ASA highly appreciates the UN Assembly Resolution A/75/L37 last November on key worker status for seafarers. We will put our utmost efforts to save our seafarers”.

Chairman of ASA Seafarers’ Committee, Han Chao said, “Now is the time that the whole world recognises the importance of seafarers who are the unsung heroes always exposing themselves to all kind of adversities to make the world trade go round”.

He urged all governments to implement the UN Resolution, thereby providing seafarers with access to COVID-19 vaccination at the earliest opportunity, respecting their fundamental rights under the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.

Chairman of ASA Ship Insurance and Liability Committee, Richard Hext said, “At the peak of the crew change crisis last year, around 400,000 seafarers were stranded at sea. This figure has mercifully reduced to around 200,000, but is still intolerable.

“It is especially disappointing to see cases of prominent ship charterers, including some who have publicly voiced support for seafarers, demanding the inclusion of ‘no-crew change’ clauses in their charterparties or voyage instructions.

“Such clauses go against the human rights of seafarers and are in clear contravention of owners’ responsibilities under MLC 2006.”

With regard to recent supply chain congestion issues, ASA acknowledged concerns raised by governments, shipper groups and other parties. ASA noted that various issues occurred, especially in the liner sector, such as an unexpected surge and concentration in demand, customers’ difficulties in booking a space, terminals congestion and shortage of available containers.

The grounding incident in the Suez Canal in March, which was resolved by applaudable efforts chiefly by the Suez Canal Authority, has worsened the situation over the short term.

Chairman of ASA Shipping Policy Committee, Takashi Nakashima said, “As the shipping industry plays an indispensable role in underpinning the stable global supply chain, ASA reaffirmed its firm determination to work with related stakeholders and continue to make its best endeavours”.

ASA also appreciated the recent decision by the Panama Canal Authority to postpone its upward revision of the booking fees, which contributed to the stability and foreseeability of the world’s waterway, responding to the united voices of ASA/ICS/ECSA.

ASA reaffirmed the need to urgently expand HKC compliance to promote environmentally sound ship recycling.

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Chairman of ASA Ship Recycling Committee, Ron Huang, said, “It is essential to continue motivating China and Bangladesh to sign up for this important convention and encourage the Asian shipowners to promote usage of HKC compliant yards, for boosting an early enactment of the HKC”.

Chairman of ASA Safe Navigation and Environment Committee, Caroline Yang said, “I trust that the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee will continue its work at the upcoming 76th session in June 2021, where one of the most important items on the agenda will be the development of the proposed International Maritime Research and Development Board, which is currently co-sponsored by 10 IMO member states and eight industry associations”.

The IMRB will provide up to US$6bn in funds contributed by the shipping industry to identify, develop and demonstrate the fuels and technologies of the future that will allow international shipping to decarbonise in line with ambitious targets set by the IMO and consistent with the Paris Agreement.

Concurrently, ASA hopes that IMO member states and other stakeholders will also bring to the table concrete proposals for possible market-based measures that it can consider in parallel with discussions on the IMRB.

Tae Soon Chung, vice-chair of ASA and chair of Korea Shipowners’Association was appointed as the 31st ASA chair. Xu Lirong, chair of China Shipowners’ Association was appointed as the vice-chair of ASA. The next ASA AGM will be held in Korea in May 2022.

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