In a circular issued on May 7, Lim said that “No seafarers should be left behind or forced to forgo their careers because of limited resources in their home country,” and called for IMO member states to go beyond fulfilling their national needs when it comes to seafarer vaccination.
Lim reiterated his call for seafarers and marine personnel to be designated as key workers, noting that 58 of IMO’s 174 member states had confirmed such action had been taken.
“The designation of seafarers as key workers will facilitate their access to vaccination, since most States are prioritizing essential workers in their national COVID-19 vaccination programmes, in accordance with the WHO SAGE Roadmap”, said Lim.
The number of seafarers stranded on ships peaked at 400,000 in Q4 2020 and has since fallen to an estimated 200,000. There are fears within the industry that the number will begin to rise again as subsequent waves of new strains of the virus hit countries. Travel restrictions have been put in place recently by many countries as India suffers a severe humanitarian crisis from a wave of COVID, restrictions which will complicate and delay repatriation and crew changes.
“Seafarers still face enormous challenges concerning repatriation, travelling to join their ships, proper access to medical care and shore leave. Despite these challenges, the seafarers on board ships have continued working, providing an essential service for the global population”, said Lim.