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Tackling the challenge of recognising seafarer vaccinations

With crew change set to continue being a challenge in 2022 the vaccination of seafarers and recognition of that vaccinated status are seen as a key issues by senior leaders from across the spectrum of the industry including unions, shipowners, and government authority representatives.

Speaking at Crew Connect Global Virtual Week, Andreas Nordseth, Director General of Danish Maritime Authority, said: “I think there's no doubt I think that long period into 2022 we'll see a lot of challenges.”

Speakers on the Industry Leadership Panel highlighted the difficulties for seafarers in securing vaccinations, having different vaccines recognised, and still facing quarantine even once jabbed.

Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) noted the industry was highly dependent a workforce that comes the Asian region such as the Indian sub-continent, Indonesia and the Philippines, which had been disadvantaged when it came to bidding a securing vaccines.

“So, we together with many of our colleagues on here have been in conversations with the World Health Organization about recognizing more than just the short list of vaccinations and looking for, standardized certification. It's totally unacceptable the seafarer can have to have multiple jabs to make it to our shortlist.”

In particular Russian seafarers vaccinated in their home country have faced having to be vaccinated again to serve on vessels in other parts of the world.

Nordseth said: “I think that the big challenge that we're in for now is the recognition of vaccines certificates.

“Now, many places in the world we're moving into third jabs, so there will be something about vaccines, international vaccine to get different kinds of jabs. And then we need to find a solution I would say in the early 2022, how can seafarers actually document that they are, sufficiently vaccinated.”

Guy Platten, Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Shipping, commented: “I still can't understand what we have not got some sort of international standards certification through the WHO.”

Conference chair, and Managing Director of V.Ships UK Ltd noted the disparity between some people onshore already getting their booster shots while ICS figures show just 25 – 30% of seafarers are fully vaccinated.

Capt Faouzi Fradi, Group Director, Crewing and Training for Colombia Ship Management highlighted the issue of bringing vaccines to where they need to be administered to seafarers.

“How can we increase the number of hubs where the vaccination is recognized vaccines can be offered to seafarers. For example, Suez Canal, Turkish Straits, Panama Canal, the strategic areas where we have a much bigger number of ships going through and there is time to have this vaccination for example,” he said.