The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has coordinated a number of shipping bodies in launching a practical guide on COVID-19 vaccinations for use throughout the industry. The guide is part of an effort to ensure that seafarers are kept safe and fully informed when it comes to vaccines, while also maintaining the integrity of global supply chains.
Co-produced with the International Maritime Health Association, Intertanko, and the International Transport Federation (ITF), the guide is being circulated to shipowners for use among crews. It is hoped the guide will help tackle the spread of vaccine misinformation by providing a trusted source of information for crew members.
Says Guy Platten, ICS Secretary General: “The guide includes straightforward information on the different types of vaccine available globally, and their safety benefits for all parties involved in global maritime. This is to counter ‘anti-vaxx’ misinformation circulating online that might be dissuading crew from taking up the vaccine.
“Often, social media is the main way through which seafarers keep in touch with family and loved ones while at sea, but it can also lead to the spread of inaccuracies around vaccines and make crew less willing to be vaccinated. Some crew may also be reluctant due to religious concerns over vaccines containing alcohol or meat products.”
The launch comes as various nations are considering launching restrictive vaccine passport schemes, which ICS has warned could put shipowners in an impossible position. It could also exacerbate the ongoing crew change crisis, with concern that the figure of 200,000 seafarers impacted by could rise if more countries begin requesting seafarers are vaccinated before ships can enter their ports.
ICS is among several industry bodies calling for seafarers to be treated as key workers and prioritized for vaccines (more than half the workforce, some 900,000, are from developing countries where government-led roll out may not reach them until 2024). This would ensure that seafarers can continue to transport vital goods, food and medical supplies, but key to success will be making sure that crews are as well informed on different vaccines as possible. Photo: SMOU