Prime Minister Narendra Modi has so far resisted calls to impose another total lockdown on the country, even as many regions have announced their own heavy restrictions. But several global industries that rely on India are looking on anxiously. Should the crisis deepen, everything from clothing and pharmaceuticals to financial services and global shipping could feel the pain.
More than 200,000 of an estimated 1.7 million seafarers globally are from India, according to Guy Platten, the Secretary General at the International Chamber of Shipping. Many of them have officer ranks and roles requiring important skills, he added.
“We hope to goodness” this situation can be resolved, Platten told CNN Business. Otherwise it could lead to big “shortage of seafarers,” which would “disrupt the global supply chain,” he added.
As many countries have banned flights from India, it is already impossible to move Indian workers to ports around the world, and swap crews.
“It will take a heavy toll on their mental welfare,” said Pedersen, whose company employs 30% of its seafarers from India.
There are also significant delays in the movements of vessels.
Some places, such as the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Hong Kong and mainland China, “have already imposed strict quarantine restrictions for vessels arriving from Indian ports,” said Sankar Narayanan, manager for shipping at shipping and logistics company GAC India.
Experts say vaccinating seafarers could be a solution, but that may prove to be hard to execute.
Vaccines and other pharmaceuticals
The bad news doesn’t end there. Apart from the Covid vaccine shortage, there could be other consequences for the worldwide pharmaceutical industry if the spread of the infection in India is not controlled soon.
But Indian drug makers get as much as 70% of their raw materials from China, a link in the supply chain that looks vulnerable given the coronavirus surge. At the end of April, China’s Sichuan Airlines suspended cargo flights to India for 15 days. That prompted India’s top pharmaceutical export group to write to India’s ambassador in Beijing, urging him to intervene.