The city state has already vaccinated front line workers in the maritime and port industries, including foreign national seafarers who serve on vessels that operate in Singapore’s port waters such as tugboats and bunker tankers.
“Our next move is to support international efforts to vaccinate oceangoing seafarers around the world,” Chee Hong Tat, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport, told International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) Global Trade webinar on Wednesday.
The Minister noted vaccination would both provide an additional layer of protection for seafarers and allow ports to remain open, and ships to continue to call.
However, the vaccines for oceangoing seafarers would be separate from Singapore’s national pool and would need to be secured by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) or the industry.
The vaccines could differ from those approved for use in Singapore by the local authorities, currently just the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Singapore has not approved the use of the Johnson & Johnson single shot vaccine for example, seen as the most suitable for seafarers for logistical reasons. Therefore the Minister said the industry needs to take the lead in working out indemnity arrangements for each vaccine type.
It is foreseen that the vaccination of international seafarers in Singapore could be combined with the city state’s crew change protocol, which has been in operation for over a year now, and a vaccination protocol is being developed along similar lines.
“Our shipping association, port operator and maritime unions are currently working out the protocol of operations together with the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore based on the above approach,” Minister Chee said.
“I am confident that this approach will enable us to come up with a safe and effective vaccination protocol for international seafarers.”
The US and some European countries have started to provide vaccinations to international seafarers, something that is seen as crucial by the industry with the majority of seafarer source nations vaccination programmes still in there early stages.
As yet no Asian nations have started to provide seafarer vaccinations. Bjorn Hojgaard is the chairman of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association and the CEO of Anglo-Eastern Univan Group recently called on Hong Kong to give excess Covid-19 vaccines to seafarers.
Writing in the South China Morning Post Hojgaard noted Hong Kong was in the enviable position of having more vaccine supply than demand.
“According to the Hong Kong government, there are restrictions on selling or donating its vaccines to other places owing to provisions in the purchase agreements. Rather than letting such a valuable resource go to waste, the government has an opportunity to put those excess vaccines to good use before they expire by offering them to international seafarers calling on Hong Kong,” he said.
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