A ship suppliers' job is to provide everything the crew and the ship needs to start or continue their journey on high waters. AESMAR – the Spanish Ship Suppliers Association, has a proud and diverse membership, with small and medium to larger ship supplying companies covering all parts of the Spanish coast and its islands. "We supply Spanish, EU and non-EU vessels with all kind of food and non-food items and articles. Stocked up on high-quality, reliable and safe supplies, they can embark on their international journey with confidence", AESMAR Chair Constantino Dritsakis proudly explains.
Spain goes into LOCKDOWN
As the country was quickly shutting down all commercial activities to combat the spread of COVID-19 infections, the attention soon turned to Spanish ports and its auxiliary services, including ship supply. Two key questions needed to be addressed:1. Do Spanish ports, including ship supply, need to be kept open as they are essential?
2. Can companies that operate in or around ports ensure protection, safety and security for their workers?
AESMAR - Time for action!
Now was the time for the industry representatives of ship suppliers in Spain, known fondly as AESMAR, to act! It was now crucially important to support the Spanish ports and very clearly explain why ship supply is an essential activity. It was also vital to showcase the contribution that ship suppliers could make to slow down or even stop the spread of the virus. AESMAR rose of the occasion and Mr. Dritsakis , declared: "In these challenging and exceptional times we must be even more diligent and work hard to continue supply vessels to the highest standards, as expected by our customers. We will spare no effort to make it work. Working closely with local and national officials, and our European friends and partners united in OCEAN, the European Ship Suppliers Organization, we will demonstrate that even in a highly specialized market like ours, under the most challenging conditions, we will rise to the task. Spain, our Spanish Ports and the many international vessels calling our shores can rely on us!"
Ports are Essential!
Soon, it became undeniable that keeping naval operations going was vital for successfully managing an ever-worsening COVID-19 situation. In times of crisis, the smooth operation of ports is essential to ensure that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other medical and non-medical goods can be quickly imported, landed, processed and transported so that they can reach the citizens. In early April 2020, the EU had already recognized the essential status of maritime workers in several of its communications. The Spanish Government followed suit and declared all Spanish ports as "Essential Services".
Spanish ship supply is an essential activity in times of crisis
AESMAR highlighted the fact that its members were an essential service within the activities of a Spanish (and EU) port. Ship suppliers provide vessels with essential goods like food, hygiene products and PPE. These are needed for crew and vessel, especially in a state of emergency. An international vessel has no one else to turn to than a ship supplier! Can the same be said about spare parts, technical items and even bonded stores? Are they also essential? To clarify, AESMAR consulted the Spanish National Ports State Authority and the Spanish Merchant Navy. AESMAR stressed the role of the ship supplier as a principal operator in the international supply chain, across the entire product spectrum. The answer was clear: Ship supply as the whole would need to be seen as an essential activity. Keeping the sector operating in times of lockdown is necessary to ensure smooth processes in ports and to provide a lifeline to the "standed" crew onboard of vessels. A total break down of national, European and international supply chains had to be avoided at all costs. Ship suppliers are an important element of that.
So, the equation was straightforward: Shut down ship supply = shut down Spanish maritime trade! AESMAR members help make Spanish maritime trade happen and, in this way, contribute to the growth of the Spanish economy.
Protecting key workers
During the lockdown, AESMAR members were also responsible for looking after the health, the safety and well-being of a wide range of persons, that were working during the crisis due to their "essential worker" status, for example:
- the onboard crew of the vessels they were serving
- ship supply employees at our companies
- partners and staff of the Spanish ports.
From the beginning, AESMAR members were committed to the highest health & safety measures. PPE was used, everywhere and immediately, for example, while
- preparing the orders
- transporting goods, or
- delivering on board.
Everyone needed to commit to rigorous health & safety standards, carefully following official guidance to avoid virus transmission. Ensuring onboard health was paramount. Mr. Dritsakis recalls: "From strict enforcement of social distancing measures to the obligation to wear face masks, gloves and hydro-alcoholic gel, we are doing it all". Warehouses, Vans and Trucks are being disinfected several times per day. New ways of working were implemented: Remote working from home reduced the employees at the workplace. We discovered the virtue of virtual meetings as a way to stay up-to-date, keep the business running with suppliers, engage with customers and colleagues without the need to leave our desk!
AESMAR at work for a vibrant Spanish ship supply
The association's pro-active work with governments, local officials, port operators, the police and other stakeholders was fruitful. So in April, the Spanish Government announced that ship supplies where an essential activity and were allowed to continue operating during the "shutdown" period.
The Spanish Association of Ship Suppliers, AESMAR, would like to express our warmest gratitude to the health professionals of every country and congratulate our resilient ship supply industry all around Europe.
Muchas Gracias for keeping our business running even in the hardest conditions.