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ICS Shipping 2021 – Global Impact panel discusses COVID-19, hopes for 2021 and seafarer priority for vaccine

On Wednesday, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) hosted a webinar featuring a panel of experts ranging from shipyard owners to epidemic specialists. Together, the speakers touched on various topics such as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout–especially regarding seafarers, what the shipping industry can expect this year, the global economy and mental health as the line between professional and personal life gets increasingly blurred.

“Existing in the pandemic cannot be done without seafarers,” said Guy Platten, Secretary General of ICS and the host of the day’s webinar, when discussing how global vaccine distribution would be impossible without mariners.

The panel featured Nigel Pain, head of the Short-Term Outlook Unit in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Frederik Kristensen, Deputy CEO for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Bjorn Hojgaard, CEO of Anglo-Eastern Univan and Rajesh Unni, Founder and CEO of Synergy Group.

Despite coming from sometimes vastly different sectors, each speaker reiterated how seafarers are invaluable to the shipping industry and global society. They discussed the desperate situation that many seafarers still find themselves in almost a year after the start of the pandemic: many still cannot get home. Each panelist expressed concerns and hopes that seafarers will have gained key worker status across all countries by the end of the year and will be some of the first to receive the vaccine.

Although 2021 has had a rough start and countries will recover unequally, the speakers agreed that this year’s end looks to be dramatically different from last. Kristensen reminded other panelists that, despite the setbacks in vaccine distribution, 2020 gave way to a dramatic advancement in science. A vaccine would typically take five to 10 years to be ready instead of just under a year. He stressed that the first step for the global economy to recover––and stay recovered––is that countries need to get the virus under control.

“Some people in all countries need to be vaccinated instead of all people in some countries, as it is being done now,” Kristensen said.

Though the pandemic has facilitated the use of remote working and virtual meetings, the panelists still lamented personal interaction and the lack of distinction between work and private life. Each speaker agreed that the blur between professional and private life can be exhausting and that mental health needs to be a priority across all sectors from now on.

Despite the challenges facing the maritime industry and global society, the speakers remained optimistic that cooperation across sectors and governments would help the world get back to normal. Even if the new normal means being prepared for another pandemic, should it ever arise again.

“Global challenges need a global response,” said Hojgaard

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