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Global supply chains at risk of collapse, warn global transport groups

28 October 20213 min reading

Global road, air and sea organisations and unions have called on the world’s heads of government to end a global humanitarian and supply chain crisis. “Unless heads of government enact change, the humanitarian and supply chain crisis will remain indefinitely, ” warn global transport groups.

In an open letter, IRU, the International Road Transport Union, IATA, the International Air Transport Association, ICS, the International Chamber of Shipping, and ITF, the International Transport Workers’ Federation, made an urgent plea to the world’s heads of government to remove restrictions hampering the free movement of transport workers, and guarantee and facilitate their free and safe movement. These organizations assert such actions are urgently needed to secure global supply chains. Specifically, the letter proposes prioritizing transport workers to receive World Health Organization-recognized vaccines, as well as implementing “globally harmonised, digital, mutually recognised vaccination certificate and processes for demonstrating health credentials (including vaccination status and COVID-19 test results).”

Transport workers have all continued to keep global trade flowing throughout the pandemic, but it has taken a human toll. At the peak of the crew change crisis 400,000 seafarers were unable to leave their ships, some working for as long as 18 months over their initial contracts. Flights have been restricted and aviation workers have faced the inconsistency of border, travel, restrictions, and vaccine requirements. Additional, systemic and unpredictable controls at road borders has meant truck drivers have been forced to wait, sometimes in their thousands and for weeks in unsanitary situations without proper facilities, before being able to complete their journeys and return home.

Global supply chains are beginning to buckle as two years’ worth of strain on transport workers take their toll. Transport heads warned that states have failed to listen or take the decisive and coordinated action, and called on heads of government to end the blame-shifting within and between governments and resolve this crisis before the looming holiday season again increases freight demand, further pressuring supply chains.

The bodies represent more than $20 trillion of world trade annually and 65 million global transport workers and more than 3.5 million road freight and airline companies and more than 80% of the world merchant shipping fleet.

All transport sectors are also seeing a shortage of workers, and expect more to leave as a result of the poor treatment millions have faced during the pandemic, putting the supply chain under greater threat.

“Throughout the pandemic transport ministries have not been able to work with health ministries to improve the way transport workers are being treated by travel restrictions. Unless heads of government enact change, the humanitarian and supply chain crisis will remain indefinitely, causing more hardship,” warn global transport groups.


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