20 countries sign pact to keep ports open for trade

Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore chief executive Quah Ley Hoon said the industry is facing new challenges in this unprecedented period, making the joint declaration all the more important.
Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore chief executive Quah Ley Hoon said the industry is facing new challenges in this unprecedented period, making the joint declaration all the more important.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Port authorities in 20 countries across three continents have signed an agreement to keep ports open for trade amid the coronavirus pandemic, in a move initiated by Singapore.

From Los Angeles to Antwerp, and Abu Dhabi to Shanghai, the countries recognised, in a virtual roundtable, that the maritime sector plays a critical role in keeping trade flows open during this period.

The port authorities committed to working together to ensure merchant ships can still berth at ports to carry out cargo operations and keep the global supply chain going, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said on Friday.

MPA chief executive Quah Ley Hoon said the industry is facing new challenges in this unprecedented period, making the joint pact all the more important.

"Shipping is chartering into many unknowns and new challenges (during the coronavirus pandemic).

"Port authorities have to take enhanced precautions for their ports and on ships, as well as manage the stress faced by our seafarers and maritime personnel," she said.

"We came out of the session gaining more valuable knowledge to ensure that necessities and essential medical supplies continue to be transported seamlessly across the world and into our respective countries."

The joint declaration commits signatories to continue to share experiences in combating Covid-19 while safeguarding "unimpeded maritime trade", and to ensure that best practices are adopted in areas such as the safe handling of cargoes.

The agreement is the first by the Port Authorities Roundtable, a by-invitation event of leading port authorities in its sixth edition this year.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 26, 2020, with the headline '20 countries sign pact to keep ports open for trade'. Print Edition | Subscribe