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Building port resilience against pandemics

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has launched a new course to help ports around the globe keep ships moving and goods flowing while protecting workers during the current and future pandemics.

Ships carry about 80% of the goods the world imports and exports, so when ports slow down, the global trading system gets disrupted, leaving everyone empty-handed – businesses, consumers, schools, hospitals.

“Covid-19 reminded the world how much we all rely on maritime transport and ports,” UNCTAD Acting Secretary-General Isabelle Durant said as she launched the organization’s online special course to help ports around the globe build resilience to the current and future pandemics.

“The world economy has awoken from its pandemic-induced slumber, but new outbreaks of the virus near or in ports could dampen recovery efforts by increasing the time and price needed to ship the goods we trade every day, such as food, clothes, electronics and raw materials.”

A sudden surge in coronavirus cases reported on May 30 in Guangdong, a major industrial province in southern China, was a timely reminder of this risk.

With two weeks, tighter restrictions and hygiene measures in nearby ports, including Guangzhou and Shenzhen – the world’s third and fifth largest – had more than doubled the number of container ships waiting to dock in the Outer Pearl River Delta.

Meanwhile, freight rates from China to Europe, already high due to supply chain bottlenecks and a shortage of containers, hit a record of $11,037 per 40-foot container in the week of 7 June.

The new course, entitled “Building port resilience against pandemics”, seeks to help port managers keep ships and goods moving while protecting the health of port workers and users.

The course will be delivered online from 28 June to 30 July and is open to all actors of port communities and related government agencies around the globe.

These include shipping agents, port authorities, terminal operators, cargo handling companies, administrative departments, and ministries of health, trade and transport.

By June 22, more than 600 participants from over 90 countries had registered.

“No good practice or knowledge is effective without the involvement of the whole port community,” said Aurelio Martínez Esteve, the president of Spain’s Valencia port authority. “Individual solutions do not solve global problems. It’s necessary to think of procedures and good practices that are fit for all.”

UNCTAD started developing the new course in March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic was declared, collecting information on mitigation measures and protocols put in place by over 40 port communities that are members of the organization’s TrainForTrade Port Management Programme.

“While the ports in our programme were highly prepared for visible threats – fires, contamination, cyberattacks – many were unprepared for the invisible threat of a global pandemic,” said Mark Assaf, chief of UNCTAD’s human resources development section, which manages the TrainForTrade programme.

“We realized that this was something that was missing in our port management programme,” he added.

The training includes interactive videos, forum discussions, data collection on best practices and simulations as well as follow-up webinars organized around four sections:

  • Crisis protocol and communication strategy
  • Staff management, well-being and resilience
  • Technology preparedness
  • Cargo flow continuity

Source: TradeArabia News Service

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