While we are finalising this issue of Ship&Offshore, London International Shipping Week (LISW) is in full swing. Of course, not in the same format as prior to the pandemic – travel restrictions and hygiene regulations have led the organisers to use a hybrid form for this event – but nevertheless no less focused on the most pressing topics of the maritime industry. In addition to technological advances and regulatory challenges, the human factor and specifically the mental wellbeing of seafarers, is a central issue. Although 18 months of pandemic have made the plight of seafarers far worse, the health of seagoing personnel is not merely a temporary one. Without well-trained and healthy seafarers, the new technologies and digital systems that are so urgently needed to increase efficiency and reduce emissions are worth only half as much.
Vaccination is still an essential issue here. According to latest figures from the International Chamber of Shipping, only 25% of seafarers are fully vaccinated so far, and most are not in line to receive a vaccine through their national programmes until at least 2022. Some countries are implementing their own strategies – Denmark, for example, has launched a programme to vaccinate international seafarers on ships calling at the countries’ ports.
However, in most locations, it is precisely those who have “kept the shop open” who are currently at the greatest risk. Here it would be desirable if measures can be found to protect people who have had to endure personal deprivation for months in a more timely and unbureaucratic way.
Sufficient onboard connectivity is also not to be neglected in this context. A recent study showed that it is crucial for the wellbeing of the crew. (A topic, by the way, that we pay special attention to in our enclosed SmartShip special edition.)
However, to have safe and healthy ships’ crews, the possibility for suppliers to develop new digital technologies, and for owners to adopt them in commercially viable ways, new binding global regulatory standards are needed. In this context, we are also looking – not only as the maritime industry, but also as earthlings – to Glasgow, where the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference will commence on October 31st.
This year’s COP meeting is regarded as the most important since 2015 where the Paris Agreement was negotiated. Because when it comes to keeping global warming within the acceptable limit of 1.5°C, we are running out of time. In Germany, where the federal election campaign is currently entering its final hot phase, the Green Party’s top candidate does not get tired of emphasising that the next government has the last chance to turn the tide and possibly prevent a climate catastrophe. Unfortunately, greenhouse gases do not stop at national borders…
It is simply not enough for individual countries to commit to environmental and climate protection or for individual national programmes to take marginally better care of their seafarers. Global efforts are needed by all stakeholders.
The necessary personal exchange on these topics – and not only in front of the computer – has of course been clearly missed over the last almost two years. And yet, there has been promising news, such as the order from Maersk for eight methanolpowered container ships.
Nevertheless, it is now really time that we meet again at conferences and trade fairs and take the steps together that are still required. In the first week of November, Europort in Rotterdam will hopefully be one such event, where we can catch up in person. We are looking forward to it!