The world celebrated World Maritime Day yesterday on 30 September 2021. This year, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has designated the theme of “Seafarers: at the core of shipping’s future” to focus on seafarers who have been facing unprecedented circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic despite their vital role as key workers for the global supply chain.
After more than 18 months since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, seafarers are still plagued with challenges. These include mental health of seafarers, and the availability of vaccines to protect them from the virus. The world has been looking ahead to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and to adjust to the new norm through the vaccination of the population. Seafarers have unfortunately been subjected to difficulty with receiving the vaccines due to the nature of their work.
According to figures released by the Neptune Declaration’s crew change tracker, only 22 percent of the world’s 1.4 million seafarers have been vaccinated as of September 2021 – lower than the global vaccination rate of 33 per cent. To move forward in this fight against the pandemic and to ensure the smooth continued operation of global supply chain, the welfare of seafarers must be protected.
Vaccination is the key.
Aligned with the 2021 World Maritime Day theme of ‘Seafarers: at the core of shipping’s future’, Singapore’s Sea Crew Vaccination (SEAVAX) initiative progressed into its second phase on 30 September by expanding its coverage to offer vaccination jabs to international ocean-going seafarers signing on from the Singapore Port.
Led by the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA), the SEAVAX initiative was first launched on the 30 August 2021 with the support of tripartite partners and funded by the Singapore Shipping Tripartite Alliance Resilience (SG-STAR) Fund. The fund was established by the Maritime Port and Authority of Singapore (MPA), SSA, SMOU and Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS), and later joined in by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC). In its first phase, vaccination was made available to non-resident foreign seafarers who have stayed in Singapore for more than 30 days, working in the supply of essential goods, or ferrying passengers.
In its second phase, tripartite partners have worked together with the Government to secure more than 12,000 Pfizer vaccine shots to kick off vaccination of sign-on crew at the Singapore port. Tripartite partners have fleshed out protocols and collaborated with the Fullerton Health Group (FHG) and Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) to set up the SEAVAX centre at the PSA Tanjong Pagar Terminal Workshop to administer the vaccines.
Captain Belal Ahmed, Chairman of the IMEC said, “This is an important step forward by both the local government and the shipping industry and it will go a long way in re-establishing Singapore’s leadership role in the fight against the pandemic and the protection of seafarers’ health and safeguarding of the global logistic chain.” Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the ITF also commented on the initiative saying, “This is a ground-breaking move by the Singaporean port authorities, seafarers’ unions and local shipping industry. We need to see more countries look to Singapore’s leadership for the way forward.”
“Seafarers are vital to the operation of the global supply chain and the future of shipping. I am glad that Singapore is able to join in global efforts of inoculating our seafarers by offering vaccination to international signing on at our port. We hope to go further for our seafarers’ well-being, by extending the availability of vaccinations to more of this group of key workers,” said General Secretary of SMOU, Ms Mary Liew.
Ship owners, managers and agents can apply for crew’s vaccination at the following website at least 7 days prior to vessel arrival in Singapore.
With the expansion of the SEAVAX initiative, Singapore hopes to provide an additional layer of protection for international seafarers during this difficult time, and to strengthen the resilience of the maritime community against the COVID-19 pandemic.