ICS will mandate seafarers to receive vaccination before entering ports
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) will be circulating a legal document to the global shipping community – highlighting the possible mandate of seafarers receiving the vaccination. The body quoted a report documenting some states asserting all crew gets vaccinated as a pre-condition of entering their ports.
Unfortunately, some reports projected developing nations would not receive mass immunisation till 2024. About 90 per cent of the population across 67 low-income countries has grim chances of receiving vaccination this year. ICS counted 900,000 individuals; over half of the world’s seafarers are from developing nations.
What it means for shipowners
Shipowners with the unvaccinated crew will be subject to legal, financial and reputational damage. In worst cases, their vessels would be denied entry into ports. This would open up legal liabilities and costs for owners, which are irrecoverable from charterers. Furthermore, while owners would address the need for seafarer vaccines in new contracts, those attempting to change existing contracts or asking the crew to receive a specific vaccine requested by a port could be liable for legal liabilities.
Shipping is expected to outdo aviation in the race to deliver vaccines globally in the second half of 2021, while a typical distribution drive takes an estimated four years to complete. Shipping is also a vital transportation method for accompanying personal protective equipment (PPE), whose estimated total volume will be 6-7 times that of the vaccine and refrigeration systems.
Seafarers are among the most internationalised workers, crossing international borders multiple times during a contracted period, with up to 30 nationalities onboard a vessel at any one time. ICS’s legal document noted it is likely that a COVID-19 vaccination will be required by most if not all states and therefore would reasonably be considered to be a “necessary” vaccination.