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INTERCARGO: “2020 Is the Most Challenging Year in Decades”

What a year 2020 has been so far! January ushered in the widespread, but not worldwide, availability of Low Sulphur Fuel Oil for ships’ bunkers. INTERCARGO joined with other international shipping organisations in assisting our industry to make this challenging transition successfully, focusing on the issues of safety, quality and availability as primary concerns for operators in the dry bulk sector. To support this transition, INTERCARGO worked alongside ICS, INTERTANKO and BIMCO to develop and implement a detailed survey aimed at evaluating the introduction of the new fuels.

Despite the survey being overshadowed by worldwide events, the results indicated that quality and safety problems will continue to be a challenge for the global shipping industry. It is planned to carry out a follow-up on this research in the next few months. Greater challenges were yet to come with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which rocked the nations of the world and led to deep, soul-searching questions being posed to governments, economies and shipping itself.

The resultant prohibition of sign-on and sign-off of our most important asset, our seafarers, has become the primary obstacle for a quality bulk carrier ship owner or operator to overcome. Despite international efforts through the International Maritime Organization (IMO), dialogue with the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and even the International Air Transport Association (IATA), it is estimated that as many as 400,000 seafarers, who are truly key workers in world trade, were trapped on board their vessels as of September 2020. Yet the best intentions of owners and operators have met huge resistance from nations’ health and immigration authorities, airlines and even some governments themselves, and seafarers have been forced to remain on board for months beyond the termination dates of their contracts, exhibiting extraordinary discipline and professionalism.

INTERCARGO members have been at the forefront of the efforts to return our seafarers home to their families and replace them with qualified, healthy replacement crew. Our members have assured us that these efforts will not cease. Despite the unprecedented challenges facing shipping in 2020, bulk carrier owners continue to face a variety of environmental challenges and rapid technological developments. They must deal with these and yet continue to serve the needs of world seaborne trade. There is no doubt that dry bulk shipping should be proud of the fact that it has been providing efficient and environmentally sustainable services, which are essential in meeting the world’s transportation requirements for basic goods: grains, coal, iron ore, bauxite and other bulk cargoes. These commodities are the building blocks of the world’s economies. Dry bulk shipping is the largest sector of international shipping in both the number of ships and deadweight. Many studies have confirmed that it is the most efficient and greenhouse gas (GHG) friendly transport mode. The ongoing INTERCARGO work programme, described in this review, has been shaped by our members, and aims to both support and lead the sector into the future, prepared to face its challenges.

INTERCARGO represents the interests of its members with close to 2,400 registered ships out of a global dry bulk fleet close to 12,000 ships. 25% of the global dry bulk fleet basis deadweight is entered with INTERCARGO. Our keen and responsive INTERCARGO Secretariat is there to serve our present and future members. If not already a member, we really look forward to welcoming you to the benefits of our Association.
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Source: Dimitrios J. Fafalios Chairman of INTERCARGO

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