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ECSA adds voice to seafarer vaccination calls and urges EU to give priority to shipping

ECSA, the body representing EU member state shipowners has penned an open letter to heads of state and governments of the 27 EU member states. The letter was also copied to EU officials and the commissioners for Health and Transport.

The letter was signed by Martin Dorsman the Secretary General of ECSA and Livia Spera Acting General Secretary of the ETF.

The letter opened by saying the COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented crew change crisis, impacting upon hundreds of thousands of seafarers, with some approaching two years stuck at sea. There is real concern that, under new restrictions, the situation will worsen rather than improve.

It went on to say “At this important juncture in the fight against the virus, we call on EU Heads of State and Government to ensure that seafarers are designated as key workers in all EU Member States and given priority access to COVID-19 vaccines. Moreover, we call on EU leaders to continue to acknowledge the needs of seafarers by ensuring that any enhanced national restrictive measures provide for exemptions for seafarers and maritime personnel.

“While thanking all the Member States that have designated seafarers as key workers, we urge that all Member States designate seafarers as key workers without any further delay. We strongly call on EU Member States and EU Institutions to ensure that seafarers and maritime personnel should, in line with the key worker status, continue to be exempted from restrictions being put in place, like quarantine and pre-arrival testing requirements. This to ensure they can travel to and from EU Member States for the purpose of crew changes, shore leave or repatriation.

“We support the Commission’s calls on Member States to accelerate the roll-out of vaccination across the EU and the key target dates identified. However, we greatly regret that the Commission had omitted to reiterate its recommendation of 15 October 2020 to prioritise key workers, including seafarers. We strongly urge all EU Member States to designate seafarers as a category of persons to be given priority access to COVID-19 vaccinations. This is essential not only because of their crucial importance of their role in the functioning of supply chains, but also in recognition of the heightened infection risk they face because of the extensive travel they undertake to join ships and for repatriation.

“We urge the EU Member States and EU Institutions to show ‘leadership and international solidarity’ in tackling this stage of the global fight against the pandemic. We ask that they explore exerting diplomatic influence with third countries to achieve international recognition for seafarers as key workers and thereby ensuring that ‘all’ seafarers are prioritised for vaccination.

“In this second wave and beyond, we have seen the reinstatement of certain restrictions and a lack of medical attention for seafarers who have tested positive for COVID-19. We urge Transport Ministers to continue to call on colleagues responsible for health and home affairs to ensure seafarers’ travel to and from vessels and their right to medical attention. Flag states have a particularly important role to play here in leading by example in facilitating crew changes in their ports and supporting their flagged vessels in efforts to undertake crew changes and repatriations globally”.