Following several international maritime organizations, Fidelity International is calling for urgent response to the humanitarian crisis and economic supply-chain risks caused by the 400,000 seafarers stranded aboard vessels, as well as a similar number trapped ashore, both with little hope of work or pay. The London-based money manager, which oversees accounts totaling over $600 billion, plans to write their concerns to the UN next week and has urged other investors to co-sign. Standing out among their peers, Fidelity has consistently stood by seafarers in their current plight during the pandemic.
“As investors, it is clear that this is no longer solely a shipping-industry problem nor a crisis that the shipping industry can resolve on their own,” Fidelity International wrote on Principles for Responsible Investment, an international forum for investment firms.
A Bloomberg investigation from September of this year reported several violations of international maritime law intended to protect seafarers, including unpaid overtime work and poor medical attention, particularly worrisome for seafarers and their families during the virus outbreak. Over 120 countries or territories had ceased or harshly limited access for vessels to conduct seafarer changes, hoping to prevent the spread of coronavirus in their borders. Even among shipping lines that manage piecemeal crew changes, the backlog of crew switches far exceeds relief efforts.
The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution recently urging member states to designate maritime employees as “key workers” and to advance progress in assisting stranded sailors in being repatriated. Many of the world’s largest shipping companies have similarly appealed to governments for help to resolve the ongoing crisis, though efforts have proved limited and lethargic.
Earlier this year, Fidelity International wrote to over 30 companies in shipping and charter sectors with pleas to address the problem, noting that the crisis creates health and safety risks to seafarers and may lead to serious environmental and personal damage if exhausted workers have a maritime accident. Fidelity added in its statement Wednesday that maritime companies and those in their supply chains will continue to come under increasing pressures to improve and protect the health and safety of their employees. The issue will clearly remain a focus for Fidelity International’s engagement team in 2021, tasked with lobbying companies to enact change in operations.