IMO, WCO urge customs and ports to maintain continuity of essential supply chain


Trade by sea must continue to flow to maintain the continued provision of essential goods, including vital medical supplies, during the unprecedented global situation arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is the message from the heads of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the World Customs Organisation (WCO).

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim and WCO Secretary General Dr Kunio Mikuriya strongly urged customs administrations and port state authorities, together with all other concerned agencies, to establish a coordinated and proactive approach to maintaining the integrity of the global supply chain so that the flow of vital goods by sea is not unnecessarily disrupted.

The statement added that many ports are closed and have denied entry to ships as measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Such restrictions can lead to negative social and economic effects as it may hinder the supply of necessary goods.

It is critical that customs administrations and port state authorities continue to facilitate the cross-border movement of vital medical supplies and equipment, critical agricultural products, and other goods, to help minimise the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on economies and societies, the joint statement said.

The two organisations emphasised the utmost importance of communication, coordination and cooperation at both national and local levels, between ships, port facilities, customs administrations and other competent authorities.

Customs and port administrations are urged to work together to resolve disruptions to the global supply chain, to support the health and well-being of all people.

The joint statement also referred to recommendations and guidance already issued by the two organisations.

In particular, IMO has distributed a series of recommendations for governments and relevant national authorities, proposed by a broad cross-section of global industry associations representing the maritime transportation sector, including a specific call for governments to designate professional seafarers and marine personnel, regardless of their nationality, as ‘key workers’ providing an essential service.

The joint statement follows the increased demand for the movement of supplies, medicines and medical equipment across different borders.


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