Seafarers’ COVID-19 vaccines need to prioritized. The amid concerns that a lack of vaccines for crew members could leave global supply chains vulnerable.
As of March, UN officials had issued a joint statement. All United Nations Member States have to focus on seafarers’s COVID-19 immunization programmes.
The race between virus and vaccine continues. The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), Seafarers’ Branch, has called for global vaccination. The aim is to prevent the crew change crisis from spiraling out of control for the third time.
The World Health Organization, The International Labor Organization, The International Maritime Organization, The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) The International Organization for Migration (IOM) All have issued a joint statement on national COVID-19 vaccine programs.
A joint statement from UN bodies decided that a global COVID certificate must be available. It must allow seafarers to ease international travel for seafarers. After the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) warnings that ;“Vaccination for ship crews has become a mandatory rule for working at sea, a need for all crew vaccinating as a prerequisite to entering some ports has introduced.
David Heindel, head of the ITF Seafarers Division, said in a statement; “We are at a crossroads. The only solution is universal access to vaccines for all seafarers. Otherwise, the Covid epidemic on Ships cannot prevented,” he said.
As explained, ITF inspectors and coordinators work with local unions and seafarers’ charities. The aim is to promote vaccine doses in the US. ITF maritime unions are pressing port State governments to distribute vaccines. to crews.
The ITF estimates that there are around 200,000 international seafarers. and they forced to work on ships. Their contracts expired due to the government’s ongoing border and travel restrictions. But, thousands have been on the ships for over a year.
With the Covid outbreaks affecting India and other major seafaring workforce countries. The shipping industry fears the number of seafarers stranded on ships could double within weeks.
Report estimates that developing countries will not achieve mass immunization until 2024. And that about 90% of people in 67 low-income countries have little chance of vaccinated in 2021. About 900,000 of the world’s seafarers are from developing countries. This is more than half of the global workforce.
ICS may forced to cancel flights if crew members are not vaccinated. This created a major cost crisis for ship owners. “Ship owners will run the risk of legal, financial and reputational damage. By sailing with unvaccinated crews who may denied entry into ports,” ICS said. “Delays causing unvaccinated crew to enter ports will incur legal obligations. And costs for shipowners that cannot recovered from charterers.”
Shipowners will need seafarers to have the required vaccination as a legal rule in new contracts. More than 400,000 seafarers from all over the world cannot get their signatures due to travel restrictions. They cannot returned even if their contracts expire and they stranded at sea.
The ITF said the Dutch government has partnered with shipowners and local unions. they will vaccinate 49,000 seafarers at many ports in the Netherlands since mid-June.
A single dose of Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine will given free of charge to seafarers working on Dutch flag vessels.
Norwegian government announced that it was re-quarantining seafarers regardless of their Covid-19. Seafarers’ unions have also urged port-owning states. They have to reopen their borders to international seafarers and vaccinate them.
Belgium has become the first country in the European Union to launch a program to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for seafarers. Efforts are also continuing at major ports around the United States.
The ITF also called on wealthy countries to support patent exemptions at the 8 June. TRIPS Council meeting to deal with the increasing death toll of seafarers due to Covid-19.