Urgent need to vaccinate all seafarers

The lack of vaccination that is faced by the industry is beginning to hit the dry bulk sector hardest, says INTERCARGO, the organization representing the world’s quality dry bulk shipowners.

Dimitris Fafalios, Chairman of INTERCARGO, says: “We are seeing a number of port states suggesting that all crew on board a vessel must be vaccinated as a pre-condition of entering their ports, and indeed insisting on a particular brand of vaccine. 

“This is of course a very serious problem for the industry as a whole, when we consider the high proportion of seafarers that come from developing countries with no access to any vaccine at all.” 

“The dry bulk sector is, however, bearing the brunt of this uncertainty due to the nature of its business. Bulk carriers on tramp trading call at many more ports than other shipping sectors and are at the mercy of the nationalized vaccination policy, applying at the port of call.

“While the world’s eyes were on the situation in the Suez Canal, a very real crisis has been unfolding behind the scenes, unnoticed and ignored by the world’s media. 

“The UN IMO and global maritime organizations’ efforts must permeate not only every area of the shipping industry, but in addition urgent action outside the maritime sphere is needed by all government leaders at the highest level. 

“Co-ordinating a worldwide vaccination program for seafarers under WHO and making WHO approved vaccinations available to seafarers in their home country is an urgent priority. 

“In addition, universal commitments for collective action are imperative to resolve the humanitarian crisis at sea with crew change, and to keep global trade moving.”

Dry bulk carriers are the workhorses of international shipping, delivering key basic goods and serving the world’s essential needs to sustain life and welfare. In the bulk carrier sector, there are close to 12,000 vessels employing over 300,000 seafarers globally, calling at more than 1,500 ports around the world in non-regular (tramp) voyages to even the most remote areas of the globe.

Dimitris Fafalios adds: “INTERCARGO is participating in a joint industry Vaccination Taskforce, led by the International Chamber of Shipping, aimed at providing clear solutions and practical guidance in the increasingly complex situation we currently face. 

“The group has produced guidance on the legal, liability and insurance issues arising from the vaccination of seafarers and is also working on developing a preliminary list of vaccination hub ports.

“Seafarers who have not yet been able to receive a vaccination should be permitted to travel to and from their country of domicile and their place of work without restriction.”

INTERCARGO believes that world leaders should ensure that seafarers are designated as key workers and have access to a prioritized vaccination program; that they do not miss out on vaccinations while travelling for work and that they are able to access the required number of doses within the timescales recommended by the WHO.

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