Coronavirus: the shipping sector needs urgent support
These are unprecedented times. The world is facing a crisis not seen in a generation and no one quite knows how the next few weeks or months will play out.
What we do know is that shipping is going to play a major part in keeping Britain open for business during these very difficult moments. But only if it gets the financial support it needs from government.
That is what I told Shipping Minister Kelly Tolhurst yesterday. The message from the UK Chamber of Shipping was clear. Shipping matters. It really is the lifeblood of our nation. Put simply, we cannot survive without it.
Shipping moves 95% of our trade. Nearly everything you eat, use or travel on has been brought to the UK by ship. As we face an international crisis it is vital ships can continue to sail into UK and ports remain open.
We know the crisis has hit the industry hard. That is why we urgently need the government to set up an emergency multi-million-pound relief fund for shipping companies to ensure the country can keep on functioning.
Without immediate and ongoing financial support from the government, UK shipping companies will struggle to import the goods we will all need during this difficult time. To keep essential medical supplies, food, manufacturing components and other goods entering the country the shipping sector must get immediate help.
We have all seen the photos of supermarkets with empty shelves. Now imagine it is happening because the country can’t bring in everything it needs because there aren’t the ships to get the goods here. Or the ships are turning up but ports refuse them entry? Until recently that was an unthinkable situation. Not today. This is the reality we face without government intervention.
Ministers cannot sit-by and do nothing whilst an industry which supports every part of society, and employs nearly 200,000 people, struggles with the ongoing impact of the coronavirus.
And the international aspect of this must not be overlooked. We will not come through this if we don’t work multilaterally and we need to see international action to support those working at sea.
It’s of critical importance that supply lines are kept open so that goods can still reach the shops and hospitals. This depends on ships being able to dock where necessary and for crew changes to take place. Unfortunately, with flights being cut back and more and more countries imposing quarantining, this is becoming increasingly difficult. Seafarers must be given special treatment so that they can continue to do their essential work and keep goods moving, giving us the best chance of beating this deadly virus.
This article first appeared in the Times Red Box