Intercargo, the organisation representing the world’s quality dry bulk shipowners, has called upon authorities to give priority to seafarers in their COVID-19 vaccination programmes.
Dimitris Fafalios, chairman, Intercargo, said:“As key workers, seafarers should be included in the early stages of a nation’s vaccination programme.
“As a key element in the drive to reboot the world’s economy, seafarers should receive vaccinations quickly and efficiently. We welcome new initiatives from national authorities and industry bodies to facilitate this and urge that these new initiatives be brought forward and trialled as a matter of urgency, so that seafarers can once again travel safely between their home and their ships, and undertake port operations without the fear of infection.”
Captain Jay K. Pillai, vice chairman, Intercargo, added: “It is of grave concern that at least 3 percent of all seafarers currently on board ships will be spending a second Christmas at sea, away from their families and friends, and an estimated 20 percent of all seafarers on board are still not relieved upon completion of their regular contracts, despite flights becoming available.
“The world is making great strides to combat the personal and economic toll taken by this virus” and adds “It is now time for the World Health Organisation to work in the direction of a worldwide acceptable COVID vaccination certificate, both on paper and electronically, and for the unique situation our seafarers face to be recognised.”
Intercargo has actively supported industry initiatives, including the recent IMO Maritime Safety Committee industry-developed protocols, which set out general measures and procedures designed to ensure that ship crew changes and travel can take place safely during the pandemic. Intercargo welcomed the recent UN Resolution on Crew Change, which urges Member States to designate seafarers and other marine personnel as key workers.
Captain Pillai said: “Unfortunately, the seafarers on board remain under stress and at risk of mental illness, and those on leave are increasingly anxious to resume earning their livelihood. Both parties are left to the mercy of governments and their Port Authorities to facilitate crew change. While we applaud the positive steps taken by some governments to allow the gradual opening of ports to crew change, this process has not been smooth and continues to be full of setbacks.
“It is high time for ports and charterers to recognise seafarers as fellow human beings and extend compassion towards those who carry and care for their cargoes.”