Ship horns will blast out at noon on June 25, in Prince Rupert on Day of the Seafarer, to urge governments to prioritize COVID-19 vaccinations for crews aboard ships.
The international initiative for ports across the country is to recognize the crucial role marine workers have played during the pandemic, the Chamber of Shipping stated, in a June 22 media statement.
All levels of the Canadian government are being called upon by the nation’s marine industry associations to ensure these men and women do not get left behind in vaccination efforts, the chamber said.
Robert Lewis-Manning, president and CEO of the Chamber of Shipping said that Canada has been a global leader in supporting crew changes for ships trading at Canadian ports through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Canada should continue its leadership in supporting people and provide vaccinations to seafarers who have endured considerable suffering while keeping vital supply chains moving,” he said.
The coalition of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, the Chamber of Marine Commerce, the Chamber of Shipping, the Shipping Federation of Canada, the St. Lawrence Economic Development Council, and the International Ship-owners Alliance of Canada are urging the government for the acceleration of first and second dose vaccines to be facilitated at mobile clinics at ports and on ships; and that ports are prioritized for vaccination as domestic immunization supply increases.
“Seafarers face particular risks of COVID-19 exposure and transmission. Due to ongoing logistical issues, and vaccine supply Canadian ship crews have struggled to receive their first vaccine dose. International seafarers, many of whom come from developing countries, are still unable to access vaccines at most Canadian ports,” the Chamber of Shipping said.
Risks are high for the ship crews as living and working onboard their vessels in close contact increases transmission possibilities. As well, the need to interact with non-crew individuals who must board the vessels, and extensive cross-border international travel while working and joining a ship, increases the possibility of infection.
In the U.S., which has a surplus of vaccines, these hurdles have been overcome by having nurses board ships at locks or at port vaccination clinics – no matter their home country, including Canadian crew members returning to this country.
Exacerbating the problem is Canadian law.
“It is also extremely challenging for seafarers to access vaccines, even when they are Canadian. Laws require that a minimum contingent of crew remains on operating vessels at all times, and crews are on board for weeks or months at a time as part of their contracts — which makes it difficult to schedule vaccine appointments,” the shipping chamber stated.
Wendy Zatylny, president of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, said Canada has established safe shore leave protocols and facilitated crew changes to support the welfare of international seafarers.
“It should now take the next step and ensure all seafarers calling at Canadian ports are vaccinated.”
“Our global supply chains don’t function if international seafarers are not healthy. Vaccinating seafarers is the best way we can protect them against COVID-19 and ensure the continued, uninterrupted movement of goods, both at home and abroad,” Zatylny said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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