“The ship is not going, famine ghost”. The signature article by Filippo Caleri. “Restrictions and quarantines imposed on crews are causing a shortage of food and raw materials. For now, traffic by sea has suffered only delays. But we are moving towards a blockade that can cause a shortage of fruit, grain and oil”.
It is not yet a famine and rationing alarm, but we are close to it. The international supply chain of goods, the one that brings fruit and vegetables from North Africa to our tables, as well as oil and wheat, is slowing down due to Covid-19. And without a global agreement between states and large shipping companies, there is a risk of stopping international trade. With enormous damage that can seriously endanger the very existence of the world economy.
The problem is not only Italian, but now affects all shipping lanes and berths. Just open the website of BIMCO (the largest international maritime associations that represent shipowners in the world) to understand how the virus is affecting maritime trade. In fact, there are 24 countries that, to date, have placed restrictions based on the so-called history of navigation, that is to say, which impose a quarantine in port if ships arrive from some countries, including of course Italy. Long times that, if they can be endured by the flows that arrive from China to Europe (the voyages last for a period of time that includes quarantine time), put in difficulty the owners who operate on the Mediterranean routes.
A cargo ship departing from Genoa to Algiers is likely to last well beyond the 3 days needed today because the cargo and crew can be blocked for over two weeks. Not only that. Among the countries that adopt these procedures there are some that export fruit, vegetables, wheat and oil to our tables such as Algeria, Israel, and also the Bahrain and Qatar. If times get longer, food and raw materials do not arrive on the shelves of supermarkets and for distributors. This is not the only problem.
To date, some countries such as Argentina, Australia and South Africa do not accept ship entries from countries with a high contagion rate, thereby removing ports and routes from ships flying the Italian flag. Finally, to date, there are almost 30 countries that do not allow the so-called crew rotation in their ports. A practice that allows the ship, which never stops from one point to another in the world, to disembark the sailors after a certain period of time.
Personnel cannot stay on board forever, in fact, but must be alternated. If he or she stays on the ship, they become a passenger and cannot be used on other duties. For this reason, the shipowners plan in advance the point where a seafarer must disembark and where his substitute must go on board. Worldwide of course. A programming that must be precise and punctual. But it is jumping because in the third list on the BIMCO website there are countries that have prohibited the change of crew in their ports.
Of course, the companies are gearing up by focusing on other destinations. But the updating of countries that close their ports is continuous. And the slowdown in the national logistics, already evident, risks turning into a severe block. Just one piece of the system that is going into crisis. Even in our house the situation is not the best. Ferries to and from Sicily and Sardinia have been reduced because only goods travel. But the number of those in operation is insufficient to guarantee the flows. So, in addition to the international shortage, the national critical situations are added.
And at the same time, the driving force of our economy in exports are at a minimum. Assarmatori is following the dossier, which in recent days, has obtained a series of concessions from the Italian state, such as the elimination of the docking tax until the end of April. An important support. And in this direction, the validity of seafarer certificates also is extended until the end of the year. But now the problem is international, and we need the help of the government.