Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore chief executive Quah Ley Hoon said the industry is facing new challenges in this unprecedented period, making the joint declaration all the more important. LIM YAOHUI/The Straits Times/Asia News Network

SINGAPORE — Port authorities in 20 countries across three continents have signed an agreement to keep ports open for trade amid the coronavirus outbreak, in a move initiated by Singapore.

From Los Angeles to Antwerp, Abu Dhabi to Shanghai, the countries recognized, in a virtual roundtable, that the maritime sector plays a critical role in keeping trade flows open in this period.

The port authorities committed to working together to ensure merchant ships can still berth at ports to carry out cargo operations and keep the global supply chain going, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said last Friday (April 24).

Ms Quah Ley Hoon, chief executive of MPA, said the industry is facing new challenges in this unprecedented period, making the joint declaration all the more important.

“Shipping is chartering into many unknowns and new challenges (during the coronavirus outbreak).

“Port authorities have to take enhanced precautions for their ports and on ships, as well as manage the stress faced by our seafarers and maritime personnel.

“We came out of the session gaining more valuable knowledge to ensure that necessities and essential medical supplies continue to be transported seamlessly across the world and into our respective countries,” she added.

The joint declaration also commits signatories to continue to share experiences in combating Covid-19 while safeguarding “unimpeded maritime trade” and to ensure that best practices are adopted in areas such as the safe handling of cargoes according to national circumstances.

The agreement is the first by the Port Authorities Roundtable (PAR), a by-invitation event of leading port authorities in its sixth edition this year.


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