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Intercargo warns on vaccination ‘lottery’

International dry bulk shipping organisation Intercargo has lashed out at the vaccination “lottery” facing seafarers, something that could hit the sector hard.

“Once again seafarers are falling victim to the lack of focus and joined up thinking from leaders of governments and the maritime industry, which has become apparent during the current ongoing crew change crisis,” Intercargo warned in a release yesterday.

Some port states are insisting seafarers use a particular brand of vaccine

Not only are vaccine passports looking like a necessity for seafarers, even specific brands of doses are being demanded, something Intercargo worries could lead to a breakdown in commodity deliveries around the world if strictly enforced.

“We are seeing a number of port states suggesting that all crew onboard 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,” said Dimitris Fafalios, chairman of Intercargo.

The dry bulk sector is especially at risk from these new restrictions, the Intercargo boss pointed out. Fafalios also heads up his own eponymous shipping company in Greece.

“Bulk carriers on tramp trading call at many more ports than other shipping sectors and are at the mercy of the nationalised vaccination policy, applying at the port of call,” Fafalios said.

Intercargo is calling for a coordinated worldwide vaccination programme for seafarers led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and to make WHO-approved vaccinations available to seafarers in their home country as an urgent priority.

A joint statement signed by the heads of five United Nations bodies last Friday called for seafarers to be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccinations. The World Health Organisation, International Labour Organisation, International Maritime Organisation and other UN bodies are urging all member states to prioritise seafarers and aircrew in their national Covid-19 vaccination programmes.

The UN bodies’ joint statement also recognised the need for an interoperable global system of Covid certificates to allow seafarers to continue to cross borders on a day-to-day basis.

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 the global rollout of coronavirus vaccinations presents. 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.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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