We are deeply indebted to all the key workers, the heroes of this uneven battle, the doctors, the nurses, the scientists and others, but also to our seafarers who work tirelessly day and night during the pandemic. We are all witnessing with great admiration the significant efforts and progress that have been made to end this nightmare, and we are looking more hopefully into the future after the news that vaccines for COVID-19 are now near,

...stated the President of the Union of Greek Shipowners, Mr. Theodore Veniamis.

During the health crisis and despite the tremendous difficulties with restricted crew changes and repatriations, seafarers continue to supply the citizens of the world with essential goods, and their indispensable role must be recognized, even with delay, the Union stressed in a statement.

Ιt is, thus, of utmost importance that competent authorities give priority to seafarers in COVID-19 vaccination, together with other key workers, such as medical personnel. This will ensure a COVID-19 - free environment for seafarers, who work under especially restrictive conditions, as well as the facilitation of crew changes and repatriations, which at the moment are seriously disrupted, and the protection of the uninterrupted international trade,

...Mr. Veniamis concluded.

The statement follows another call by union Nautilus International, who also supported that seafarers should be added to the list of frontline workers to receive Covid-19 protections,. taking into consideration their personal expense and risk.

However, during an IMO meeting which gathered UN agencies, shipping organizations, unions and maritime and logistics businesses earlier in November, experts agreed that the vaccine alone is not enough to resolve the crew change crisis and the focus needs to be on developing a range of practical solutions.

Currently, an estimated total of 400,000 seafarers are stuck at sea beyond their contractual obligations due to Covid-19 restrictions that prevent crew changes. In some cases, crews have been at sea for 20 months without a break.