Accordingly, 2020 saw the industry supporting the urgent vaccination of seafarers as well as their designation as key workers. Cyprus is taking these efforts a step further, suggesting the launch of a feasible solution to inoculations.
Cyprus Shipping Deputy Minister, Vassilios Demetriades, sent a letter to the EU Transport and Health Commissioners and IMO Secretary-General, explaining the program that the country is proposing and stressing the need for a practical, feasible and collective approach to addressing the issue of seafarer inoculations.
As stated above, many are the challenges with the logistics of a vaccination programme for seafarers, including the country of origin or residence of the seafarers, transport and customer restrictions, availability of the approved or authorised vaccines, the two-stage vaccination process, and the subsequent time required for a seafarer to be considered as inoculated.
Consequently, Cyprus believes there should be a distinction on the basis of the duration of the sea voyage. The suggested programme comprises two main strands:
- For short sea shipping, national measures remain workable and regional cooperation easier to achieve.
- For deep-sea shipping, Cyprus believes that vessels operating on long-distance intercontinental routes should be designated as an isolated COVID-19 zone; a “bubble”. The focus should therefore be on seafarers ashore. Cyprus suggests a coordinated global approach to ensure adequate numbers of approved or authorised vaccines, acceptable to all governments, are available to seafarers for inoculation in their country of residence before they travel to join their respective ships.
Commenting on Cyprus' proposal, Vassilios Demetriades, Cyprus Shipping Deputy Minister, explained that
A global seafarer vaccination programme would greatly assist the enhancement of crew changes. While we recognise that this is a complex issue in terms of both procedures and logistics, we believe that - by working together - a practical, feasible solution can be found.