Vision of Container Ship Safety Forum (CSSF) campaigns for seafarers’ recognition as key workers and to receive priority access to vaccine
In a recent conference, physical and mental health was a hot button topic for Germany-based CSSF’s members in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 23 participating companies discussed about ways to mitigate stress onboard. An example listed was implementing mental health helplines for those onboard and relatives ashore.
The pandemic’s wrench in routine crew replacement has taken a massive toll on seafarers. A mix of varying quarantine regulations across ports worldwide, delayed crew change, and travelling by plane became impossible; many seafarers were stuck onboard for over a year, with some facing difficulties accessing medical assistance at ports.
Recognise seafarers as key workers
The gradual relaxing of crew change regulations did minimal to alleviate the situation. Noting its severity, Aslak Ross, Head of Marine Standards at Maersk A/S and CSSF’s First Chairman said, “Seafarers are key workers and therefore, they must be amongst the first groups for vaccination, once available.”
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) also urged its remaining member countries to adopt the same. To date, 45 member states and an associate member (Hong Kong) have agreed to designate seafarers and other maritime personnel as key workers. Its secretary-general Kitack Lim, remarked: “Key worker designation for seafarers is essential to exempt these professionals from specific Covid-related travel restrictions, allowing them to travel between their country of residence and ships, and to be repatriated at the end of their contracts.”
He added it is critical to resolve the crew change crisis; where hundreds of thousands of seafarers left trapped at sea, or stuck at home and unable to join ships. It could even play a key role in granting them priority access to safe vaccination.