Asian shipowners can overcome their economic difficulties and win trade stabilisation only through co-operation based on co-existence and co-prosperity, the Asian Shipowners Forum (ASF) says. The ASF said members would transcend regional borders and try to achieve co-operation and mutual support among all parties on a global basis. The growth of the shipping sector would be limited without the economic development of Asia, it said. The ASF said Asian shipping problems were exacerbated by overall cargo imbalances and container equipment shortages in Southeast Asia, where the financial crisis since the second half of last year has had a serious impact. The growing problem was that carriers and carrier groups were forced to reduce operations, such as withdrawing from key trades or reducing the number of sailings in certain container trades, it said. The ASF members agreed unanimously that shipowners should encourage other industries to understand the shipping sector in order to achieve stabilisation of trade. It said the ASF members should review carefully the proposed amendment to Section 19 of the US Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which was being discussed in the US Congress. The forum also expressed concern over the extremely low returns being experienced in the dry-bulk trades. Delegates urged all involved to refrain from speculative over-ordering of newbuildings and to consider increasing the rate of scrapping. It was of vital importance that the quality and volume of trained seafarers should meet the international standards required for safe and environmentally responsible shipping operations, the ASF said. It fully supported the IMO Convention on the Standards of Training and Certification of Watchkeeping for seafarers, which came into force on February 1 last year. With the help of other ASF members, the seamen's committee had put a huge amount of effort into identifying and resolving practical problems surrounding its implementation. It was in the interests of employers and seafarers that Asia should meet the new requirements or there would be a global shortage of qualified seafarers, the ASF said.