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Unions call for all seafarers to be vaccinated

Maritime employers are also lobbying governments not to close their borders to unvaccinated crew, warning seafarers from poor countries without access to vaccines may be disadvantaged

The Nautilus Federation of 22 unions wants a worldwide vaccination programme for seafarers and inland waterways transport crew, to help resolve the crew change crisis and ensure seafarers do not miss out on vaccines

UNIONS have called for the worldwide vaccination of seafarers amid concerns they will miss out on coronavirus vaccines.

The Nautilus Federation of 22 unions wants an international programme to vaccinate seafarers and inland waterway crews to ensure they do not miss out on vaccines while travelling for work.

“Maritime and shipping professionals require an international solution to ensure they can access vaccines while at sea,” said federation director Mark Dickinson. “Governments and global organisations must recognise this urgent and growing need.”

The unions said vaccine policies differed and some countries did not consider certain vaccines suitable.

Nautilus wants those seafarers vaccinated outside their home country to be given only vaccines authorised by their home country, with information on those vaccines in English as well as their own language.

It said seafarers must get their required doses within the World Health Organization’s recommended timescales.

It also called for free travel for seafarers who had not yet been vaccinated, and an education programme for them to counter anti-vaccination propaganda.

The International Maritime Employers’ Council is also lobbying governments not to impose mandatory vaccination as a condition for entry.

Francesco Gargiulo, its chief executive, told Lloyd’s List seafarers from poor countries were unlikely to be vaccinated as fast as those in richer ones, and imposing rules too soon would worsen the crew change crisis.

Mr Gargiulo said he understood health workers getting vaccination priority, “but you can’t put a stop to people travelling for work — particularly because these guys are essential to world trade”.

“I don’t hear too many countries thinking about doing this, but there’s always going to be the outlier,” he said, adding that countries like Australia and New Zealand had become almost Covid-free “by trampling all over the rights of seafarers”.

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