Unions demand worldwide seafarer vaccination programme

The Nautilus Federation, a group of 22 trade unions representing seafarers and inland waterways workers, has issued a statement calling on governments and global organisations to coordinate a worldwide vaccination programme for seafarers and inland waterways transport crew.

The unions believe that the crew change crisis could be mitigated by an international endeavour to vaccinate maritime and shipping professionals. An international effort would also help to ensure that seafarers do not miss out on vaccinations while travelling for work.

The joint statement notes that vaccination policies and authorisations by government agencies differ in many jurisdictions, with some vaccines not considered suitable by particular countries. It therefore calls for seafarers who receive a vaccine outside of their country of domicile to only be given one authorised by the regulatory body of their home country. It also reflects on the importance of seafarers receiving information on their vaccination in English and their own language.

Nautilus Federation affiliates, in supporting this statement, recognise that maritime and shipping professionals require an international solution to ensure they can access vaccines while at sea.

The statement highlights the importance of seafarers being able to access the required number of doses within the timescales recommended by the WHO, and the need for access to medical services for those who experience side effects.

The statement also asks that:

  • Any vaccinations authorised by the WHO be recognised as valid for seafarer travel and transit through any national jurisdiction
  • Seafarers who have not yet been able to receive a vaccination to be permitted to travel to and from their country of domicile and their place of work without restriction for the duration of the global seafarer vaccination programme
  • An education programme targeted towards seafarers to counter the effects of anti-vaccination propaganda

Nautilus Federation director Mark Dickinson said: “There are specific characteristics of the industry which call for a position encouraging vaccination, as maritime and shipping professionals must travel to do their job. This places them at additional risk, and vaccination is an obvious step to mitigate that risk and protect employment.”

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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