#UN; #UNEP; #Covid19; #Seafarers; #KeyWorkers; #Covid19
Geneva/UN, Sep 25 (Canadian-Media): The UN Secretary-General has again appealed for governments to act on behalf of hundreds of thousands of seafarers and other maritime workers stuck at sea for endless months, in some cases more than a year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seafarers are on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic, playing an essential role in maintaining the flow of vital goods, such as food and medical supplies. Image credit: IMO
António Guterres on Thursday pressed authorities to formally designate these personnel as “key workers” to facilitate safe crew changes, allowing fatigued seafarers to be repatriated and replaced by colleagues who are awaiting deployment.
“Despite the unprecedented conditions brought about by the pandemic, seafarers have continued to tirelessly support the often invisible global logistics chain”, the UN chief said, in his message for World Maritime Day, observed annually on 24 September.
This year, the focus is on ‘Sustainable Shipping for a Sustainable Planet’ which underlines how the industry will play a central role in both post-pandemic recovery and future economic growth.
Seafarers critical to global trade
As Mr. Guterres pointed out, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the professionalism and sacrifice of the more than one million men and women who serve in the world’s merchant fleet.
Seafarers play a critical role in shipping, which accounts for the movement of more than 80 per cent of global trade including food, basic goods and vital medical supplies needed during the pandemic.
The UN and partners estimate that more than 300,000 members of this hidden workforce currently are trapped at sea due to travel restrictions, border closures and other measures implemented by governments to contain COVID-19 spread.
They said the situation is unfolding into an urgent humanitarian, safety and economic crisis.
‘The show had to go on’
Captain Hedi Marzougui was commanding a merchant vessel in the Far East when the pandemic broke out. Life on board immediately became difficult. Crew changes, shore leaves and medical leaves were suspended, and it was hard to get vital supplies or technical support to the ship.
“Port nations changed regulations on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Severe strains began to show amongst my crew almost immediately,” he said, speaking at a virtual event to mark World Maritime Day, held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
“Not knowing when, or if, we would be returning home took a severe mental toll on my crew and myself. We felt we were being treated as second-class citizens, with no input or control on our lives. However, even under these stressing conditions, the show had to go on.”
‘Collateral victims’ of the pandemic?
For some seafarers, the show appears to have no end. The Secretary-General noted that some tours of duty have now stretched more than 17 months: far beyond international standards.
Besides renewing his appeal for Governments to declare seafarers as essential workers, Mr. Guterres urged authorities to implement protocols developed by UN agencies, alongside the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Workers’ Federation, that would facilitate crew rotations.
The protocols also call for no new work extensions beyond 11 months, diverting vessels to ports where crew changes can take place, and recognition of internationally-designated seafarers’ documents.
Kitack Lim, Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and a former seafarer himself, stressed that it is high time for action. “We all depend on seafarers,” he said. “They should not be the collateral victims of the pandemic.”
‘Catastrophic’ impacts at sea and on land
The head of the International Labour Organization (ILO) warned that failure to resolve the crisis would not only be “catastrophic” for seafarers and compromise maritime safety, it could potentially lead to a breakdown of global supply chains.
“We have a plan of action, and I think our next steps must simply be… to increase the pressures on governments so that the perfectly feasible action is taken”, said Guy Ryder, the ILO Director-General.
He reported that Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) from 30 major companies wrote to the Secretary-General this week, requesting action.
Some 12,000 companies worldwide have joined the UN Global Compact, which supports businesses in aligning their operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, the environment and ending corruption.
CEO and Executive Director Sanda Ojiambo pressed for political action, stating that without seafarers, global supply chains would simply cease functioning.
“Truly, for the sake of men and women like Captain Marzougui and his crew, and in the interest of safe and orderly shipping and trade, let us all make our national authorities know that we stand with the seafarers,” she said.
#IMF; #ECF; #IslamicRepublicOfMauritania; #FinacialAssistance
Washington DC, Sep 6 (Canadian-Media): The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed Sep 2 the fifth review under the three-year Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement for the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, IMF reports said.
IMF. Image credit: Twitter handle
The arrangement was approved on December 6, 2017 with total access of SDR 115.92 million (about US$164 million at current exchange rates),
In the review, the Board also approved the authorities’ request for an augmentation of access of SDR 20.24 million (about US$28.7 million or 15.7 percent of quota) to address higher-than-anticipated financing needs stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The augmentation brings total access under the ECF arrangement to SDR 136.16 million (about US$193 million or 105.7 percent of quota). The completion of this review allows Mauritania to draw SDR 36.80 million (about US$52.2 million or 28.6 percent of quota).
Earlier this year, the authorities had requested emergency support under the IMF’s Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) to help address Mauritania’s urgent balance of payments need due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 23, 2020, the IMF’s Executive Board approved the disbursement of SDR 95.680 million (about US$130 million at the time or 74.3 percent of quota), thereby providing space to increase spending on health services and social protection programs and helping to catalyze additional donor support (Press Release No. 20/186).
Following the Executive Board discussion, Mr. Mitsuhiro Furusawa, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, made the following statement:
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impose severe human, economic, and social hardships in Mauritania. Economic activity has slowed down sharply and the outlook has weakened. The overall budget deficit could widen significantly, giving rise to large balance of payments and fiscal financing needs. Risks are tilted to the downside given risks of a more protracted global and domestic COVID-19 outbreak.
“Despite the difficult environment, performance under the ECF-supported program has been strong. The authorities are implementing prudent economic policies and advancing with reforms, albeit with some delays, to ensure macroeconomic stability, foster an inclusive recovery, and reduce inequalities and poverty. Their swift response to contain and mitigate the effects of the pandemic is welcome. Prioritizing health spending and targeted support to the most vulnerable households and sectors of the economy should continue. The temporary loosening of the policy stance is justified and implementation of the national COVID-19 response plan should proceed expeditiously within the 2020 supplementary budget. The central bank has eased monetary conditions and should continue to monitor banking sector soundness. The authorities are committed to full transparency and reporting of resources deployed for the emergency response and to publishing procurement contracts, auditing crisis-mitigation spending as soon as possible, and publishing those results.
“The authorities’ continued commitment to the medium-term objectives of the economic reform program supported by the ECF arrangement is welcome. The program aims at creating fiscal space by mobilizing domestic revenues and strengthening public financial management with a view to increasing priority spending on education, health, social protection, and infrastructure while maintaining prudent borrowing policies. The authorities should return to primary budget surpluses as soon as conditions normalize to ensure debt sustainability, given the high risk of debt distress.
“The IMF’s continued financial assistance, along with other financing from the international community, will help Mauritania respond effectively to the COVID-19 crisis by providing space to increase spending on health services and social protection programs. Further external support will be needed to close prospective financing needs next year.”