Mar 09, 2021 / 12:48

Vietnam proposes to vaccinate international seafarers

Vietnam argues that the vaccination of sailors will help maintain the global supply chain.

Vietnam has suggested the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to accelerate the Covid-19 vaccination of seafarers due to their transnational work.

 The first Singaporean seafarer to be vaccinated, Muhamad Nashrin Bin Ayub. Photo: Singapore Maritime Officers' Union

Head of the Vietnam Maritime Administration Nguyen Xuan Sanh made the suggestion in a letter sent to IMO in late February, addressing the need to facilitate the trans-border safe movement of the seafarers who spend long periods of time away from their home country.

In the proposal, Vietnam expects IMO’s Secretary General Kitack Lim to consider and regulate the vaccination in different countries for sailors regardless of their nationality.

For which, the IMO’s member states should list seamen in the priority groups for the Covid-19 inoculation and the governments should allow them to get vaccinated when landed in each country.

Vietnam’s proposal is aimed to maintain the global supply chain as seafarers are considered key workers in essential services.

IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim highly appreciated Vietnam’s suggestion, saying that they is coordinating with its sister UN agencies like the International Labor Organization (ILO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and the World Health Organization (WHO) to call for governments to prioritize sailors in their national Covid-19 vaccination program.

Lim said a joint statement of several UN agencies is currently under development that is expected to be released shortly.

Furthermore, IMO will discuss with its member states, representatives of the maritime industry, UN agencies, and other relevant stakeholders to discuss a coordinated strategy of vaccination, Lim added.

In January 2021, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has called upon governments to prioritize seafarers and frontline maritime workers as they roll out Covid-19 vaccines to avoid a second crew change crisis.

Seafarers are key workers in the maritime industry, which accounts for 90% of world trade. The United Nations General Assembly has recently adopted a resolution calling on UN member states to designate seafarers and other maritime crew as key workers.

It should also be stressed that the inability to rotate crews from their ships also jeopardizes flows of medical materials needed for global vaccination.