The global pandemic impacted every sector of our economy – for some, this translated into an acceleration of advancements and improvements to go digital; for others, the pandemic meant a complete standstill. The images of empty streets, airports, towns and cities usually bustling with people and activity will remain imprinted on our minds for years to come.
For the Mediterranean Maritime Hub, with its daily footfall of over 400 visitors and employees, the situation was no different; the pandemic transformed our lives and how we work. It meant crews were stranded offshore and onshore, desperate to get home or to get to work.
The initial halt in activity saw ports close and vessels docked. Still, once it became clear that this was, in fact, a global pandemic, and the longevity of it was yet to be determined – the shipping industry had to raise their anchors and find an alternative way to move goods and supplies between countries. Maritime trade has always been an important sector, accounting for 80 per cent of global trade, and the intra-Mediterranean region maritime trade flows accounts for 25 per cent of the total international traffic volume. We had to find solutions.
The pandemic went from a short-term disruption to a year-long strategy of how to safely carry out essential services for the maritime and energy sectors. It showed the resilience of these workers, of people generally. Along with others, seafarers are many of the unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that vital services remained operative during times of uncertainty, far away from their loved ones. For the Mediterranean Maritime Hub, seafarers are crucial for port activity – they bring life to the energy sector and are the lifeline for maritime trade.
This time last year, the MMH team collaborated with authorities to find the best way to safely transfer people and necessary goods, resulting in the issuance of the Covid-19 Protocol for Crew Changes. These protocols have made it possible to maintain the smooth transition of crew changes from across the globe whilst upholding the highest health standards. From temporary quarantine standards to mandating mask and visor wearing, from the establishment of health clearance protocols to organising crew transportation standards, this joint endeavour between the private and public authorities has shown how understanding public authorities and responsible business can work together for the public interest.
We are grateful today that with these protocols and best practices in place, the shipping, ports, and transport operators can continue to soldier through these rough times whilst also ensuring that seafarers’ mental and physical well-being is also taken into account. Covid-19 has forced us to learn and adapt, and whilst we look forward to the removal of travel restriction both at sea and by air, we will carry forward the lessons we have learnt, which also gives us the courage to look ahead to a brighter, better, safer future.