The UN and international air and sea groups on Friday called on governments to prioritize seafarers and aircrew in their national COVID-19 vaccination programs.
The International Civil Aviation Organization, International Labour Organization, International Maritime Organization, International Organization for Migration, and World Health Organization issued a joint statement for air and sea workers.
The organizations called on “governments to prioritize seafarers and aircrew in their national COVID-19 vaccination programs together with other essential workers.”
“We also call on governments to identify and prepare for the challenges of COVID-19 vaccination of seafarers and aircrew, particularly for seafarers spending long periods away from their home country,” they said.
The organizations supported the timely development of an internationally harmonized framework for vaccination certificates to facilitate international travel for seafarers and aircrew.
“Maritime and air transport are two essential activities that underpin global trade and mobility and are key to a sustainable socio-economic recovery,” said the groups.
They noted that maritime transport moves more than 80% of global trade by volume.
The global economy depends on the world’s 2 million seafarers who operate the global fleet of merchant ships, the statement said.
The travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic have severely impacted seafarers.
As of January 2021, it was estimated that some 400,000 seafarers were stranded aboard commercial vessels, long past the expiry of their contracts and unable to get repatriation.
A similar number of seafarers urgently need to join ships to replace them.
Further, they noted that passenger air transport carried about 5.7 billion passengers in 2019, while airfreight represents 35% of the value of goods shipped in all modes combined.
Seafarers and aircrew are key workers required to travel across borders at all times, resulting in the need for them to present proof of a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition for entry in some countries.
“This is despite WHO recommendation that, at present, countries should not introduce requirements of proof of vaccination for international travel as a condition of entry, as there are still critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission and limited availability of vaccines,” the organizations said.
“For shipping and air transport to continue to operate safely, seafarers’ safe cross-border movement and aircrew must be facilitated.”