The Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation; Mr Kitack Lim recently fielded questions from our Editor. Excerpt  

Are there specific interventions on the part of the IMO to alleviate the plight of seafarers, especially concerning the risk of infection and also crew exchange? 

Yes, IMO is working with other organizations and has endorsed a series of protocols designed to address crew changes. Drawn up by a broad cross-section of global industry associations representing various sectors of the maritime transport industry, the protocols set out general measures and procedures designed to ensure that ship crew changes can take place safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. At their heart is a call that, provided shipping companies broadly comply with and adhere to measures applicable to them, governments and their relevant national authorities should, for their part, do everything possible to allow crew changes to happen.  The wide-ranging protocols contain recommendations to maritime administrations and other relevant national authorities such as health, customs, immigration, border control, seaport and civil aviation authorities. They address the roles of shipping companies, agents and representatives, including crew agencies and seafarers, and extend to seaports, airports and airlines involved in travel operations for ship crew changes. IMO has also circulated a range of other guidance from UN bodies, industry organizations and Member States. There is guidance providing World Health Organization (WHO) information and guidance on the safe and effective use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to support decisions on use of PPE to minimize the risks of COVID-19 infection for seafarers, marine personnel, fishing vessel personnel, passengers and others on board ships, as well as shore personnel intending to go on board (such as pilots, port workers, port State control officers, ship's agents, etc.); and in their interaction with each other. 

 What does the IMO envisage as the outcome of COVID-19 on global cargo volume and vessel traffic? 

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) monitors global cargo volumes and produces the annual Review of Maritime Transport series. Of course, there will be impacts on cargo volume and vessel traffic, but it is too early to give those predictions with certainty. For now, many actors are working to ensure trade keeps moving. IMO supports measures which will help seafarers and the maritime industry to continue their vital work delivering goods around the world. 

  Does the IMO interface with member- nations or does it relate with ship owners and terminal operators in the face of the COVID-19 Pandemic? 

IMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations. IMO is an organization of Member States, while it also works in collaboration with other UN agencies. Some 70 international non-governmental organizations have consultative status at IMO, and they represent the whole cross section of the maritime industry. So individual ship owners or terminal operators can get their voices heard, through the national bodies which are members of the international NGOS and also through their own Member State’s representatives at IMO – usually the transport ministry or maritime Administration.  

 What specific challenges has the IMO discovered in the sphere of ship traffic and cargo evacuation at seaports in this era of the pandemic? 

One of the biggest challenges at the moment is crew well-being and welfare, along with ensuring seafarers and other maritime personnel are designated as key workers. 

 Does the IMO have a post-COVID 19 recovery programme for global shipping? 

IMO is working to reconstruct its programme of meetings and carry out the work within its remit as the global regulator of shipping. IMO will continue to work to enable the advancement of shipping, while addressing the challenges of continuing developments in technology and world trade and the need to meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.