It’s World Maritime Day on September 30 and we use the occasion to support the health, wellbeing and financial futures of seafarers
On World Maritime Day we turn our thoughts to seafarer safety, security and wellbeing. This is timely, given that the chosen theme for 2021 is “Seafarers: at the core of shipping’s future”. This highlights the need to raise awareness of the important work that seafarers do and how they, in turn, must be protected. At LSC, we believe there are two fundamental ways to achieve this right now, as detailed below.
One: Call for compulsory vaccines for seafarers
Covid hit the shipping industry hard and we, as a result, believe that vaccinations should be made compulsory for seafarers. Currently, the shipping companies who supply workers to their vessels recommend that crew members be vaccinated, but this is not mandatory.
John Wilson, for the LSC, says: “Seafarer welfare and safety need to come first and this must become the industry norm. The chances of those who are vaccinated falling ill are not entirely eradicated, but the chances of being hospitalised or worse are vastly reduced. If you’re vaccinated, you’re also more likely to be employed and able to work.”
The industry is now contemplating compulsory vaccinations and it is estimated that around a one-quarter of the world’s 1.6m seafarers have received their dose to date.
LSC supports around 50,000 seafarers of many nationalities passing through Merseyside’s ports each year. The charity has arranged for many of these seafarers to receive vaccines at walk-in centres. However, as they are not NHS-registered, they cannot use the official NHS COVID-19 App and access official confirmation that they’ve had the vaccine.
Wilson adds: “We need the International Maritime Organisation, International Labour Organisation and World Health Organisation to unite and produce an international framework to facilitate global uniformity. It’s only then that we can secure a brighter future for seafarers.”
Two: Introduce mandatory levy for port support services
Given the important job seafarers do, it’s surprising to learn that once these workers have carried out their duties in our local ports, there is no guaranteed welfare provision for them. Instead, the support for seafarers passing through ports is reliant upon charitable donations.
Wilson explains: “As it stands, ships coming to the UK can pay a port levy to support services like ours, but it’s voluntary. An invoice is raised based on gross tonnage and it is at the discretion of the agent for that particular vessel as to whether they will accept and pass it down the line and ulitmately for the “fee payer” to agree and pay the levy. Some agents are proactive, while others report that no additional non-statutory charges will be accepted, which is disappointing. We are lobbying them to bring pressure to bear to change the mindset, demonstrating a duty of care to seafarers.”
Ship owners have a responsibility for crew welfare, as detailed in the Maritime Labour Convention of 2006 and a levy is one way of satisfying this recommendation. However, we’re trying to get this responsibility into statute, making it a requirement rather than a recommendation.