Nautilus International and the UK Chamber of Shipping have urged Maritime Minister Robert Courts MP to support establishing the UK as an international seafarer vaccination hub, where seafarers of all nationalities can access Covid-19 vaccines while their vessels are in ports around the UK.
In a joint letter to the minister, Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson and UK Chamber of Shipping CEO Bob Sanguinetti wrote: 'In many nations, seafarers are not being prioritised for vaccination by their domestic vaccination programmes. Without such prioritisation, the shipping industry will need to develop a global solution for seafarers to access vaccines while away from home.
'We believe that the UK can take the lead in calling for a global solution and that to do so would be to pre-empt and to mitigate issues likely to be faced by seafarers travelling internationally, such as the need for vaccination passports to facilitate travel.
'With the UK as a global maritime leader and the home of the International Maritime Organization, we feel that a UK international seafarer vaccination hub will be an ideal showcase of the UK’s maritime offer to the world.'
Mr Dickinson and Mr Sanguinetti further argue that this move would mitigate difficulties faced by seafarers in accessing coronavirus vaccines and therefore prevent further disruption to global trade.
As keyworkers, who spend months at a time away from home onboard their vessels, seafarers face significant barriers in accessing domestic vaccination programmes.
The letter comes ahead of global talks on a range of key maritime issues, including access to vaccinations for seafarers, which are due to take place at the International Labour Organization between 19-23 April 2021.