After the successful COVID-19 vaccination of Belgian seafarers that started on 2 June, Belgium is moving a level up as the Vaccination Task Force and the Interministerial Conference on Public Health started a vaccination campaign from 26 July for all seafarers arriving in a Belgian port, regardless of their nationality.
Medical teams will go on board the vessels in the ports, makings Belgium the first country in the world to provide the vaccination for seafarers in this way.
Namely, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the North Sea Vincent Van Quickenborne, the Royal Belgian Shipowners’ Association and the Directorate-General Shipping of Federal Government’s Department for Mobility and and Transport developed a plan of action.
The Taskforce Vaccination and the Interministerial Conference on Public Health gave the green light for the vaccination plan for seafarers on board ships flying a foreign flag from 26 July onward.
This concerns seafarers who are:
- Staying and working on board a vessel docked in a Belgian port, or
- Arriving in Belgium in order to board a vessel docked in a Belgian port (signing-on), or,
- Leaving the vessel docked in a Belgian port in order to return to their home country via Belgium (signing-off).
- Roving vaccination teams have been set up to go on board the vessels in the ports to perform the inoculation under the supervision of Mediport and with the assistance of hospitals of the Gasthuisgroep Antwerpen.
Taking into account the one-off visit to a Belgian port and the logistical challenges, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – as a single-dose vaccine – is the most appropriate one.
With the vaccine, we are offering seafarers the certainty that they can carry out their profession under its unique circumstances in a safe manner, and that they are able to travel smoothly and securely to foreign ports.
Together with Germany and the United States, Belgium is one of the only countries that are vaccinating foreign seafarers, and the only one in the world to do so onboard vessels using mobile medical teams.
In response to this global emergency, Belgium as a country with the world’s largest ports, is taking the lead in making vaccines accessible to all seafarers who arrive by sea. We call on other countries to likewise prioritise the vaccination of this essential group. Only then can the continuity of global trade be guaranteed
Vincent Van Quickenborne, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the North Sea, said.
Dr Rob Verbist, port doctor of Mediport, is carrying out the vaccination drive in Antwerp together with his team. As he explained all seafarers, regardless of nationality, will be provided with a single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine once their ship anchors at a Belgian port.
We should not be blind to the fact that many seafarers of all nationalities have limited or no access to vaccination in their own country. It is also a humanitarian responsibility for all countries to provide the necessary protection against the virus for seafarers
Wilfried Lemmens, Managing Director of the Royal Belgian Shipowners’ Association (RBSA) commented.
Furthermore Marc Beerlandt, Managing Director MSC Belgium, added that the lack of access to COVID-19 vaccines is putting global supply chains under mounting pressure. With the global mobility of shipping crews already severely limited and hundreds of thousands of seafarers who have kept the world moving amid COVID-19 lockdowns still stuck at sea, the lack of access to vaccines risks serious disruptions to global trade.
This timely initiative is greatly appreciated by shipowners. Shipowners have long been looking for solutions to have their crews vaccinated in a smooth and safe manner and this is what we can offer them right now. We will certainly reap the benefits of this in the long run: Not only will it become safer for everyone who has to go to work on board, we also run less risks of infected crews calling at our ports. This is definitely a win-win situation for shipowners, for our ports and for everyone involved
Hilde Bruggeman, Director NAVES/Antwerp Shipping Association (ASV) concluded.
Leave a Reply