Europe and the rest of the world is experiencing our most far-reaching disaster in modern times. Most governments have more or less closed down our entire societies, in order desperately trying to avoid critical collapse of the health services; and in order to save lives.
But nevertheless, some critical sectors have still been functioning remarkably well during these difficult times, among them is our own maritime transport industry!
It is with great pride that I have observed that maritime pilots across Europe, including in the most critically virus affected regions, uninterruptedly and indefatigably have been carrying out their duties in a safe and professional way during this crisis.
On behalf of the EMPA Board, I would like to express my admiration and sincere gratitude to every single European pilot for your invaluable contribution in keeping the traffic of ships in Europe’s ports and fairways effective, safe and secure!
I would also like to thank our Secretary General and our office staff and the entire Board of Directors for keeping our association running, and for taking well care of the numerous tasks that have been necessary to address during the past months.
When the crisis emerged, we were just completing the comprehensive preparations for EMPA’s 54th General Meeting that was supposed to be arranged in Antwerp in April. A large number of interesting, influential and knowledgeable presenters had agreed to address the General Meeting, and a lot of extensive practical preparations had been arranged. Now, everything has been postponed, to an uncertain future.
Not least has it been necessary to maintain EMPA’s communication with European institutions and with all the other maritime stakeholders, in order to assure that EMPA’s interests are respected. These important tasks have been carried out by our Secretary General to our full satisfaction!
EMPA has prioritized to inform our membership about the various guidelines and recommendations that have been issued by IMO, WHO, the EU, and the different national authorities in Europe. This has been done primarily through maintaining and continuously updating the COVID-19/Pilotage web page on EMPA’s web server.
These procedures and requirements are to a very large degree coinciding and compatible: Most important are the crucial recommendations to keep social distance, to avoid unnecessary large groups, and always to maintain good hand hygiene.
EMPA’s clear recommendation is to follow the development of this pandemic closely, and to adhere to recommendations issued by WHO, IMO, national and local health authorities.
By and large, this has been functioning remarkably well! In a very few instances, issues have arisen where virus mitigation guidelines issued by different organizations appear not to have been harmonized, in particular when it comes to the feasibility of wearing masks or mouth/nose covering. Such instances should be dealt with in a pragmatic way by all parties. The overarching objective of reducing the contagion risk for all involved personnel and for our society, should always be emphasized upon. IMO has recommended that we all have a responsibility to comply with any screening or other protocols or procedures introduced by visiting ships to address COVID-19. Furthermore, it is important to maintain good mutual communication beforehand on the procedures that are to be followed.
It has been heart-breaking to witness all the reports of good people who have lost their lives during this pandemic! It is also shocking to witness the enormous impact that this crisis has on our economies, and for the businesses that keep our societies running.
In addition to the highly valued and much appreciated contribution of the health workers, I think that also the thousands of seafarers of the global merchant fleet deserve much appreciation. Many of them are experiencing anxiety and uncertainty about how their dear ones will fare, and when they will be able to have crew change and visit their families again. The international cruise ship industry has been among the most affected during this crisis. It is almost unimaginable for us maritime pilots to perceive that most probably, we will not be able to serve these ships during the normally very hectic summer months that now lie before us.
Many knowledgeable people have tried to predict what kind of society that will emerge when this crisis is over. What will be the impact on the way we live and interact, on the global trade, and on the industries that we all rely on, when the Corona Virus is no threat anymore? I will not try to indulge into such prophecy – apart for concluding that the need for local knowledge, for competent manoeuvring skills and ship handling experience that is crucial in order to handle big vessels safely and efficiently in the ports of Europe, that need will prevail also in the future!
Stein Inge Dahn