The effort to ensure that seafarers have access to Covid-19 vaccinations has been gaining considerable traction over the last few months, with organizations such as the International Chamber of Shipping, the International Maritime Organization, and the International Labour Organization all stepping up the call for countries around the world to facilitate access to vaccines for seafarers calling their ports, regardless of nationality.
Given that this has become an increasingly important subject on the ocean shipping agenda, we have provided below a recap of recent developments in both Canada and the U.S. and what we can expect to see in the weeks and months ahead.
Domestic Seafarers: Although Canada’s vaccine supply and roll-out have been gaining significant momentum over the last several months, vaccines remain available to Canadian residents only. As far as the domestic shipping industry is concerned, this means that the only way for Canadian seafarers to currently access a vaccine is to book an appointment at an approved facility, as per the same criteria as all other Canadians. Although there are currently no specific programs in place for vaccinating domestic seafarers as a group, we are aware of a number of industry-led projects (mostly in the Great Lakes region) that may ready for deployment if / when the government authorizes the delivery of vaccinations beyond the current settings. We will provide additional information on these programs as it becomes available.
Foreign Seafarers: Although foreign seafarers calling Canadian ports currently have no avenues for being vaccinated in Canada, we are strongly urging Transport Canada (and other relevant departments and agencies) to prioritize foreign seafarers for vaccination in a context where our domestic supply is increasing and more and more Canadians are being immunized. Such action would not only ensure the health and welfare of the seafarers who play such an essential role in delivering Canada’s trade, but also protect us from any serious health-related disruptions to Canada’s transportation system and trade chain overall.
There are a number of potential models with respect to how vaccines could be delivered to foreign seafarers calling Canadian ports, and we are working with industry partners (including ports and local seafarer centres), as well as local and provincial officials, to identify and develop the models that would work best for a given port or region. There is also a possibility that Canada could contribute some of its vaccine supply to locations outside of Canada, which would serve as regional vaccination “hubs” for foreign seafarers calling certain ports and regions. However, the most important step in bringing any of these models to fruition is to ensure that Canada is ready to allocate vaccine for the purpose of vaccinating foreign seafarers as soon as its domestic supply permits.
As part of our advocacy on this issue, we are also working to compile figures on the number of foreign seafarers calling Canadian ports who have already been vaccinated, what type of vaccine they received, and where the vaccination was delivered. Although it is definitely not our intention to increase the reporting burden that vessel operators and agents already face, any readily available information that members can share with us in this respect would be much appreciated.
The association that represents seafarer missions and maritime ministries across North America (NAMMA) has developed a list of locations in the U.S. where foreign seafarers may be able to access Covid-19 vaccines (click HERE). Most of these vaccinations are being delivered at local pharmacies or health care facilities located near a given port, with the local seafarers’ welfare centre often arranging for transportation to and from the facility. In certain areas, there is also the possibility of health officials coming to the ship to vaccinate crew.
We urge members with U.S. operations to consult the list if they wish to see whether there any any available vaccine opportunities at specific ports of call.
We will continue to provide members with updates on all of these issues as warranted. In the meantime, members with questions on the above, or with any pertinent information to share from their end, should contact the undersigned.