Fidelity gets $2trn investor group to back letter to UN on seafarers’ Covid plight

Investors join Fidelity International’s push to end “humanitarian crisis” at sea caused by pandemic

Investors representing more than $2trn have thrown their weight behind Fidelity International’s letter to the United Nations urging action on the plight of seafarers stranded as a result of restrictions brought in because of the pandemic. 

RI reported in November that Fidelity was inviting investors to co-sign its letter to the international body calling for swift action by governments to tackle the unfolding “humanitarian crisis” in the shipping sector. 

85 investors heeded that call, including Switzerland’s Ethos Foundation, Dutch investors Actiam and Achmea, and US SRI stalwarts Domini and Boston Common.  

A key measure being called for in the letter to the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, is that all governments classify seafarers as ‘key workers’ and establish “systematic processes to enable safe crew changes such as safe corridors and testing regimes”.

The letter reports that more than 400,000 seafarers are stranded aboard vessels and the same amount again remain ashore without work because of strict national restrictions on movement, which prevent crews from disembarking and being replaced.

Signatories state that while they are “encouraged” by the recent resolution adopted by the UN Assembly urging member states to designate seafarers as key workers, only a “handful of countries” have begun to do so. Many more need to follow suit “if we are to find a global solution to this crisis”, the letter concludes.

Without urgent action, the International Chamber of Shipping has estimated that the number of seafarers affected could reach one million.

“Shipping is responsible for 90% of global trade and holds the key not just to a global economic recovery from the devastation of COVID-19, but to maintaining our current way of life,” said Jenn-Hui Tan, Global Head of Stewardship & Sustainable Investing at Fidelity International. “Seafarers must be classified as ‘key workers’ to enable them to perform their essential services in a safe and secure manner.” 

A number of recommendations, developed in consultation with the International Labor Organization and the International Transport Workers’ Federationare, are put forward by the investors, including:

  • Ensuring seafarers do not spend more than the legal maximum of 11 months on board ships 
  • Urging charterers, especially those that charter vessels on a frequent basis, to be flexible with route deviation requests from shipping companies to facilitate crew change and to consider financial support for the costs of crew repatriation

“The fact that an estimated 400,000 seafarers remain stranded across global supply chains is a humanitarian tragedy as well as a major supply chain risk for many companies” added Vincent Kaufmann, CEO, Ethos Foundation. “Ethos Foundation and the members of the Ethos Engagement Pool International are proud to support this investor statement.”