The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), along with members and partners, has called for governments to prioritise seafarers for vaccinations as ships around the world sound their horns on 25 June, Day of the Seafarer, to highlight a growing crew-change crisis
The ICS has published a Seafarer Vaccination Roadmap, outlining how countries can set up vaccination hubs at their ports.
Commenting on the crew-change crisis following the association’s quarterly meeting, ICS chairman Esben Poulsson said, “In my 50 years in the maritime industry, the crew-change crisis has been unprecedented in the devastating impact it has had on seafarers around the world”.
Continued Mr Poulsson, “We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the plight of hundreds of thousands of seafarers. All nations have benefited from their sacrifice throughout the pandemic. Those same nations have a duty to prioritise seafarers for vaccinations and keep their word to allow crew changes.”
Emphasised Mr Poulsson, “Seafarers cannot survive on platitudes. The ships sounding their horns today are letting national governments know that the world is watching.”
Meanwhile, vessels are sounding their horns at 12 noon local time on Friday in ports including Singapore, Rotterdam, and Los Angeles.
Seafarers plead for recognition as key workers
In a video released by ICS, seafarers urgently call on governments to recognise them as key workers in line with UN recommendations.
Some 200,000 seafarers are currently affected by restrictions which prohibit them from leaving their ships. According to the latest data from the Global Maritime Forum, the crisis is worsening: the number of seafarers working over their contracts has grown from 5.8% in May 2021 to 7.4% in June.
ICS estimates that 900,000 seafarers are from developing nations with limited vaccine supplies. At present, 12 countries are prioritising seafarers – regardless of their nationality – for the vaccine at ports in the US, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, the Seafarer International Relief Fund, set up by maritime wellbeing charities and supported by ICS, has raised more than US$800,000 to support seafarers and their families who have been hard hit by the pandemic.
Seafarer Covid-19 Welfare Survey
Hundreds of maritime stakeholders have joined in the effort to end the crew-change crisis and provide seafarers with vaccinations by signing the Neptune Declaration and endorsing IMO and ILO’s resolution on the designation of seafarers as key workers as it relates to Covid-19.
The Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA), for example, has been actively engaged in addressing all issues relating to crew repatriation on board Bahamas-flagged ships to ensure compliance with the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 requirements and, more importantly, to safeguard the health and mental wellbeing of seafarers and their families. The BMA’s efforts in collaboration with the IMO Seafarer Crisis Action Team and other member states has enabled effective actions to be taken to ease the mental burden on seafarers.
The BMA is also in the process of obtaining data via its Seafarer Covid-19 Welfare Survey which will promote the cause of seafarers and raise awareness of the challenges they have faced as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. The Seafarer Covid-19 Welfare Survey has been designed to capture and reflect the mental health needs of seafarers around the world during the coronavirus pandemic. This initiative, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Washington School of Public Health, manifests itself as a short, online survey open to any and every seafarer.
Describing the goal of the survey, Captain Dwain Hutchinson, managing director and chief executive of The BMA, said, “The BMA is determined, through the survey and industry engagement, to hear about the changes that seafarers themselves would like to see in their industry.” Added Captain Hutchinson, “On this Day of the Seafarer, we join all in the industry and the global community in expressing our appreciation to every seafarer and to say to them that we are listening to their call for a fairer future and we look forward to being able to assist with targeted support.”
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