The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the international Maritime Organization (IMO) has highlighted the need for seafarers to be given priority access to COVID-19 vaccines, recognizing the unique and essential work of seafarers for international shipping and for the world.
The MSC adopted a resolution on “Recommended action to prioritize COVID-19 vaccination of seafarers”. The resolution recommends that Member States and relevant national authorities prioritize their seafarers, as far as practicable, in their national COVID-19 vaccination programmes (taking into account the WHO SAGE Roadmap). Proper consideration of extending COVID-19 vaccines to seafarers of other nationalities is also recommended, taking into account their national vaccines supply.
Member States are also recommended to consider exempting seafarers from any national policy requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition for entry, taking into account that seafarers should be designated as ʺkey workersʺ, as they travel across borders frequently.
They should also develop appropriate plans, where feasible, to provide necessary infrastructure and facilities to support COVID-19 vaccination of seafarers. Given the limited period of time ships are in port, single dose COVID-19 vaccines for seafarers would be preferable.
The resolution recognizes the need to protect seafarers through vaccination, as soon as possible, to facilitate their safe movement across borders; while also noting the limited and highly uneven access to COVID-19 vaccines around the world, and highlights the importance of cooperation among the countries.
The resolution also invites Member States, international organizations, shipping companies and other stakeholders to inform seafarers about the safety and possible benefits of the COVID-19 vaccination, bearing in mind that taking the vaccination is a decision made on an individual basis.
The resolution was adopted by the Maritime Safety Committee, meeting for its 103rd session from 5 to 14 May in remote session. (Download the full resolution here: Recommended action to prioritize COVID-19 vaccination of seafarers Resolution.pdf)
Earlier this week, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim issued his personal call for IMO Member States to support a fair global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, beyond fulfilling their national needs, to ensure seafarers can access vaccines.