Shipowners and seafarers are calling on the UN to help facilitate crew transfers as the Covid-19 pandemic spreads and many countries close their borders.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers' Federation asked the heads of four UN agencies to provide seafarers with the "key worker" status that airline crew and medical personnel have.

"They should be afforded special consideration and, notwithstanding the need to comply with emergency health protocols, treated with pragmatism and understanding when seeking to travel to and from their ships," the letter, to the IMO, International Labour Organization, UN Conference on Trade and Development and World Health Organization (WHO), read.