As the world watched the Ever Given salvage over the last week, the heads of five UN organizations joined together in a call for maritime and air transport workers to be given priority access to COVID-19 vaccines given their key role in supporting global trade.
The joint statement called on governments to prioritize seafarers and aircrew in their national COVID-19 vaccination programs, together with other essential workers.
“For shipping and air transport to continue to operate safely, the safe cross border movement of seafarers and aircrew must be facilitated. We reiterate our call upon countries that have not done so to designate seafarers and aircrew as key workers,” says the joint statement, signed by the heads of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The statement was supported by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), who reiterated its strong request for seafarers and aviation workers to be given prioritization.
“Governments must prioritise these key workers to allow these to get on with their critical work and maintain critical supply chains that all the world’s people rely on,” said ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton.
The joint calls comes as an estimated 200,000 seafarers continue to be impacted by the on-going crew change crisis sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The UN, industry and unions have stepped up where governments have failed throughout this pandemic. From crew change, to aviation health and safety, to vaccination – we have collaborated to build the solutions needed by transport workers where we cannot wait for slow-moving governments to wake up to the crisis,” added Cotton.
International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) said the joint statement reiterates the key role that seafarers play in keeping global trade moving during the pandemic, as well as the hundreds of thousands of seafarers who remain affected by the ‘crew change crisis’.
“To date, shipping’s ongoing crew change crisis has been largely still invisible to the wider public,” said Guy Platten, Secretary General of the ICS. “Crew are working hard around the globe to keep global trade moving, with 200,000 seafarers currently being impacted by overly harsh restrictions which stop them boarding or disembarking ships.”
The ICS also noted that the Suez Canal incident serves as a good reminder to governments and the markets of just how important global shipping is to the supply chains, and said that the incident would likely only exacerbate the already dire situation sea.
“ICS and other organizations have been lobbying hard to get this recognition for seafarers and we urge governments across the globe to heed the call from the United Nations and recognize the fact that successful vaccination programs will rely on those hidden heroes who deliver the vaccines and PPE around the world. Seafarers are a vital part of the vaccine roll out and need to be vaccinated themselves, and not forgotten,” Platten said.
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