Crew services specialist Boers has launched seafarer vaccination programs at German and Belgian ports, as shipping executives warn of onboard COVID-19 outbreaks because mariners are not getting vaccines quick enough.
Seafarers arriving at ports in Antwerp, Ghent and Zeebrugge can get one-shot COVID-19 jabs through Boers’ scheme, which is being launched to protect key workers in the shipping industry.
The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine will be available free of charge until further notice to all mariners of any nationality arriving in Belgium for crew changes. There is a fee for the medical services provided by the port authorities.
“Getting as many seafarers as possible vaccinated is absolutely vital to supply chains and global markets,” said Hans Boers, Co-CEO of Boers, the Netherlands-based shipping crew transport services operator for Northern Europe.
“We’ve seen with the crew change crisis the challenges shipping companies face in hiring seafarers for their vessels, creating a shortage of available mariners which in turn has led to rising prices for goods, food and petrol as demand outstrips supply.
“For us, the most important thing is making sure crew members entering Belgian ports have access to free COVID-19 jabs. Protecting seafarers from the virus is paramount – and we have the means to help do that. The more mariners who have the vaccine, the quicker shipping and life in general can return to normal.”
Boers recently began facilitating the free jabs to mariners at German ports in Hamburg and Bremerhaven, and the company also helps organize vaccinations at ports in the Netherlands. The vaccines are provided by the German, Belgium and Dutch governments, while Boers assists with arranging the appointments and transport to ensure it’s arranged smoothly.
While Boers is supporting efforts to vaccinate all seafarers, maritime executives such as Esben Poulsson, Chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping, say the new delta strain of COVID-19 has hampered the shipping industry.
Poulsson added that crew changes were not happening quickly enough to satisfy increased demand for products, especially from the US and Europe in the lead up to Christmas, putting more pressure on already strained global supply chains. He also criticized government figures for continuing to stick their heads in the sand.
Stephen Cotton, general secretary, International Transport Workers’ Federation, expressed similar concerns about the crew change crisis. “The situation is going from bad to worse,” he said. “We need more than lip service from governments; we need concrete action that allows crew changes to be carried out in a safe manner.”
Meanwhile, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has urged IMO member states to support a fair global distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, to ensure seafarers have access to jabs.
“No seafarers should be left behind or forced to forgo their careers because of limited resources in their home country,” Lim said. He added that shipping companies needed to provide testing, appropriate PPE and access to medical and sanitation facilities, to protect crew members and prevent the virus spreading.
At Belgian ports, seafarers who want the COVID-19 vaccine must apply at least 48 hours before their ship is berthed. Application forms, which should include the vessel information, expected time of arrival and details of the mariner wanting the vaccination, must be sent to [email protected]
On receiving the application, the port’s maritime medical center will either confirm or refuse the request. Vaccinations on vessels are available for five or more crew members, with groups of four or less having to go to the medical center. Any COVID-19 jab will be recorded in the seafarer’s vaccination booklet.
In Germany, Boers offers around 30 shots on Tuesdays and Thursdays and approximately 40 shots on Saturdays to seafarers at Hamburg’s port. Details for the number of vaccines available in Bremerhaven and on what days are being finalized.
Shipping companies that want vaccines for their seafarers at German ports need to provide Boers with a crew list, vaccination passport, the vessel’s contact details and a patient agreement and information sheet signed by the crew member.