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2021 an important year for seafarer welfare


Incident after incident this year has not deterred global crew from pressing on

Crew change crisis dominated 2020’s maritime headlines, and continued throughout 2021. This year’s troubles began with the Suez Canal fiasco in March, followed by congestions everywhere. While shipowners and charterers remain worried about their balance sheets, gratitude is warranted to the crew onboard for their relentless commitment.

Applauding seafarers’ dedication
The crew change crisis left the industry incredibly jaded. From extended stays onboard beyond their contractual months, to the International Transport Workers’ Federation’s (ITF) involvement in seafarers’ lawsuits – it had reflected the degree of neglect from commercial stakeholders. Port congestions from border restrictions aggravated the issue when countless vessels were left waiting for weeks to unload.

Vaccines further complicated the conundrum with its multitude of dilemmas, though some vaccination programmes for seafarers were reportedly in place. While the inoculation rate could be quicker, the issue of side effects remains overlooked. One of the biggest factors which contributed to the slow vaccine rate was fear of allergic reactions, apart from supply shortage. The known side effects resulted in some seafarers opting out. On the other side of the world was the debate on rich nations not sharing vaccines with the lower-income countries. Moreover, the inconsistent recognition of available vaccines in spite of World Health Organisation’s (WHO) approval added more deadlocks. Nonetheless, seafarers’ commitment onboard was never compromised.

On a positive note, the industry has something to smile about on the topic of seafarers. The Global Maritime Forum Neptune Declaration Crew Change Indicator recently revealed inoculation percentage has risen to 49.5 per cent from 41. In comparison, the share of the population of fully vaccinated crew in several large shipping nations such as Europe, North America and Asia is close to or above 60 per cent. In spite of their rates remaining behind those of large shipping nations, some countries had stagnated while other nations’ crew vaccination rates continue to increase significantly month-by-month.

Seafarers remained committed to sustain world supply chains in the face of adversities. Yet, they are forgotten ones while the rest of the world fussed over the holidays. If there is something to be grateful for, it is how much our global seafarers sacrificed. The least everyone can do is to reciprocate by extending more welfare benefits.

Crewing Online News Team
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