Frustrated by the lack of progress and slow pace of international efforts, ship management trade group InterManager said it will work separately to obtain COVID-19 vaccines to protect the world’s more than 1.5 million seafarers and thereby keep international trade routes open.
InterManager president, Mark O’Neil, said, “Global organizations have talked their way round in circles and still we are no further forward in providing a vaccination program for seafarers who are vital in ensuring that world trade and aid continues to be delivered. InterManager says enough is enough—realizing that the international efforts have not been sufficient in recognizing the importance of the vaccination of seafarers we will now work on sourcing vaccinations separately through legitimate channels to enable our members to vaccinate their seafarers as soon as possible and to support others within the maritime industry to do the same.”
The United Nations has designated seafarers as essential workers, but so far only 58 countries have followed this directive and are prioritizing seafarers to enable them to travel to and from vessels. In addition, vast numbers of seafarers originate from developing countries where the official rollout of vaccinations are hampered by the availability of vaccines, thus compounding the problem.
O’Neil stressed that InterManager will continue to collaborate and give full support to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and fellow shipping industry NGOs in sourcing vaccination for seafarers. However, he expressed his disappointment at the slow speed of international efforts, commenting: “The IMO is hampered by having to negotiate through the United Nations, World Health Organization and others. Sitting back and waiting for these bureaucratic institutions is only part of the solution.
“The world’s seafarers need our help and as ship and crew managers we must work together to do all we can to ensure that their lives and livelihoods are protected,” he said.