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Building Port Resilience Against Pandemics in port communities around the world

Mark Assaf, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

11 March 2020 will certainly be a date remembered for many around the world when the Covid-19 was declared a pandemic by the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO). It took a few days for all of us to understand the consequences underlying such declaration, unique in our century.

The very first Governments’ actions were to “contain” the virus and we all got to discover the meaning and full force of quarantines and lockdowns.

Consequences for international trade and travels were dramatic, at a speed never seen before. A self-inflicted brutal shock no one could imagine.

The maritime industry and its web of ports was front line in this “new battle” reaffirming its essential role in the global economy. Around 80% of trade is transported by commercial shipping. This includes most-needed items such as vital medical supplies and equipment, as well as food, energy, raw materials and manufactured goods and components. Keep supply chains open and allowing maritime trade to continue was paramount. This required world’s ports to remain open for ship calls and ship crews’ changeover, which as we know is still an issue. Additional measures were taken to protect the staff working in port communities and to ensure continuity of ports’ operations.

The objective of UNCTAD TrainForTrade’s ”Building Port Resilience Against Pandemics” (BPR) special course is to support the implementation of measures and to prepare for and alleviate contingencies related to a pandemic in a port, port terminals, and other seaport actors.