InterManager, the international trade association for ship managers, has announced it intends to work separately to obtain Covid-19 vaccines for seafarers
The association said it was “frustrated by the lack of progress and slow pace of international efforts” to source vaccines for seafarers and has vowed to work towards sourcing vaccines for the industry’s 1.5M seafarers and help keep international trade routes open.
InterManager president Mark O’Neil said, “Global organisations have talked their way round in circles and still we are no further forward in providing a vaccination programme for seafarers who are vital in ensuring that world trade and aid continues to be delivered.”
“InterManager says enough is enough – realising that the international efforts have not been sufficient in recognising the importance of the vaccination of seafarers, we will now work on sourcing vaccinations separately through legitimate channels to enable our members to vaccinate their seafarers as soon as possible and to support others within the maritime industry to do the same.”
While the UN has designated seafarers as “essential workers,” only 58 countries have followed this directive and are prioritising seafarers to enable them to travel to and from vessels.
Vast numbers of seafarers originate from developing countries where the official rollout of vaccinations are hampered by the availability of vaccines coupled with a more severe wave of infections, notably in India and the Philippines. With owners insisting on vaccinated crew members and governments placing restrictions on crew changes, this compounds the problem.
Mr O’Neil stressed that InterManager will continue to collaborate and give full support to IMO and fellow shipping industry NGOs in sourcing vaccinations for seafarers.
However, he expressed his disappointment at the slow speed of international efforts, commenting, “IMO is hampered by having to negotiate through the United Nations, World Health Organisation and others. Sitting back and waiting for these bureaucratic institutions is only part of the solution. The world’s seafarers need our help and as ship and crew managers, we must work together to do all we can to ensure their lives and livelihoods are protected.”
In late April, prompted by the severity of the second-wave of Covid-19 infections in India, Singapore banned crew changes involving non-residents with a recent travel history to India and has now extended it to Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Singapore-based ship management company Synergy Group has also temporarily frozen crew changes from India and the Philippines.
Only last month, Intercargo warned of a “vaccine lottery” and noted, “We are seeing a number of port states suggesting 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.”
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