ICS Releases Vaccination Roadmap Framework for Seafarers
As the US, Netherlands and other nations begin to roll out vaccines to all seafarers, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has published a Vaccination Roadmap framework to help establish vaccination hubs dedicated to seafarers across the world, alongside other major maritime NGOs.
Seafarers are a unique population with their own requirements for international travel. On a global scale – and since January 2020 – they have faced enormous challenges in carrying out their work. Seafarers could often not be relieved for months at a time. And seafarers have continued to suffer the consequences of international travel restrictions that have varied from country to country.
To protect the health of seafarers, passengers and the general public, and to minimize disruptions to trade and global supply chains, vaccination of seafarers is not only essential but critical in helping to achieve global immunization.
So far, 16 states in the US have begun vaccination programmes for non-native crew delivering goods in their ports. Other countries in Europe are set to follow suit in the coming weeks and months due to successful vaccinations programmes for their own general population. The Netherlands, for instance, has recently announced the launch of a vaccination programme for all seafarers flying under the Dutch flag from mid-June, regardless of nationality.
The Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners (KVNR) Managing Director Annet Koster: “As shipowners, we are grateful that the Dutch government recognises the need to vaccinate seafarers through a tailor-made programme and has given us the confidence to implement this valuable vaccination programme.”
To help governments and companies responsible for creating hubs, the 21-page document has information on vaccine eligibility, implementation, distribution, administration and legal issues.
Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping, Guy Platten, commented: “The pace of covid-19 vaccine production is a modern marvel, but the world is reeling over distribution delays. Soon, seafarers will be delivering the vaccine by sea freight. Already they deliver critical PPE, safety boxes, syringes, and other medical materials for the vaccine rollout. Seafarers must be prioritised for the vaccine to not further exacerbate delivery delays.”
While industry bodies are working with authorities at a national, regional and international level to prioritise rapid access to vaccinations for seafarers, the roadmap document can also be used by shipping companies (their agents and representatives, including crew agencies), maritime administrations and national health authorities, in liaison with other authorities (such as local customs, immigration, border control, seaport and civil aviation) and seafarers, during the planning and roll-out stages of the vaccination programme.
The roadmap allows governments, regions and companies responsible for port authorities to expedite putting procedures in place to create vaccine hubs, once they are ready to begin vaccine rollout to seafarers. Port authorities will work in collaboration with other stakeholders, including shipowners, charities and medical staff to ensure effective vaccine implementation.
These learnings can be translated and replicated globally when other countries are in the position to do the same. The roadmap will allow countries to do so quickly, by allowing governments, companies and other stakeholders to learn from the best practise of others.
The vaccination programme will be targeted at seafarers who: need to leave their vessels and return home; emanate from countries which currently do not have vaccination available, which is roughly 60% of the seafaring population; emanate from countries which currently have not prioritised seafarers in their vaccination campaigns.
With over 50 types of vaccinations in clinical trials, it is recommended that the vaccination administered should be on the WHO list of vaccines. Due to the transient profile of international seafarers, single dose vaccines are strongly preferred under this roadmap. However, it is recognized that these may not always be available in certain countries. Should a second dose be needed, plans should be developed for the second injection to be received in a timely manner.
National and local authorities, ships and seafarers and welfare providers should contribute to forming a multi-disciplinary team. This will be required to establish-and implement a seafarer vaccination roadmap, from -establishing a centre to rolling out the programme.
Sites for vaccination hubs will be chosen based on their efficient crew access, plentiful vaccine supply and appropriate infrastructure support to supply and store vaccines. A site could be a port or an airport, or in existing medical facilities that are already used as a vaccination centre.