The International Group of P&I Clubs answered a number of questions that are frequently asked about P&I Club cover relating to the vaccination of seafarers.
- Is the cost of COVID-19 vaccinations covered under P&I insurance?
Governments are providing free vaccinations for their citizens and, increasingly, to visiting seafarers. However, the provision of COVID-19 vaccinations is an operational issue and so neither the cost of the vaccine, nor any ancillary costs, are covered under P&I insurance.
- Are any liabilities resulting from vaccinating seafarers covered under P&I insurance?
If, during the course of their employment, a crew member is diagnosed with symptoms due to a reaction to a vaccination and both the vaccine and the vaccine administrator were approved according to the relevant protocol in that jurisdiction, then the shipowner’s liability for illness and/or death, under the terms of employment and any applicable Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), would apply as it would with any other illness.
This liability would be covered by the shipowner’s P&I insurance, with each case depending on its individual facts and merits.
- Would P&I insurance cover a member’s liabilities in the event of a seafarer not being vaccinated?
A seafarer employed under a contract of employment which does not make vaccination a requirement for employment cannot be required or mandated to be vaccinated, so P&I cover would not be prejudiced.
- Would P&I insurance remain in place to cover a shipowner’s liabilities if seafarers in transit are sent via a third country to be vaccinated?
This would have to be decided on the facts of the case and would depend on the length of the stay and whether the seafarer is travelling to their assigned vessel.
If the third country is not en route to the entered vessel, the stop-over would be operational in nature and is likely to fall outside the scope of P&I insurance.
- Can Clubs recommend specific facilities providing vaccination services in ports where a shipowner’s vessel is calling?
Clubs do not have the local expertise to provide such recommendations but will make their network of correspondents and contacts available so that the shipowner can make an operational decision.
The following information on the availability of vaccines for seafarers in ports around the world may also be useful: https://icma.as/vaccines/
- Should the whole crew be vaccinated at once and if not, how should the seafarers to be vaccinated be chosen?
Whilst this is an operational decision, in an ideal world the preference remains for seafarers to be vaccinated before deployment so they are still ashore should they suffer any severe reaction. The crew will also be better protected from the start of their contract and the logistics of the administration of two-dose vaccines can be more easily managed.
Now that countries are beginning to vaccinate foreign seafarers, a shipowner may decide to provide the opportunity to vaccinate the whole crew at once or only part of the crew. Particularly when deciding to vaccinate all their crew at once, a shipowner should consider the risk of adverse reactions and the potential impact on safe manning levels.
Even the usual side effects from the vaccine may still affect the ability of the crew to perform their duties safely for a limited period of time.
If vaccinating part of the crew, shipowners may wish to select crew from various ranks to ensure that safe manning levels are maintained and also to prioritise according to risk, including age and health status.
If seafarers are to be vaccinated in port, it is important to coordinate closely with the vessel’s agent and provide them with the vessel’s ETA so that they can liaise with the vaccine facilitator. The earlier these operational arrangements are started, the more likely they are to proceed smoothly.