Chamber: “Legal minefield” when dealing with crew vaccinations

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The International Chamber of Shipping sees a rash of potential legal issues brought on by crew vaccines.

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By Michael McGrady, Maritime Direct Americas & Pacific Correspondent

LONDON — The International Chamber of Shipping has warned that the lack of access to vaccinations for seafarers is again placing the shipping industry into what they refer to as a ‘legal minefield’ that leaves global supply chains ‘vulnerable.’

“Shipping companies are in an impossible position,” said Guy Platten, the chamber’s secretary-general, in a statement. “They are stuck between a rock and a hard place, with little or no access to vaccines for their workforce, particularly from developing countries.”

The spread of new variants of COVID-19 continues to bring challenges with border control and travel restrictions that threaten to sharply increase seafarers’ number affected by the ongoing crew change crisis.

The chamber says that 55 countries and two associate members of the International Maritime Organization have also declared seafarers only to be keyworkers and are entitled to the protections outlined by the mandates of the World Health Organization’s vaccine recommendations.

“We’re already seeing reports of states requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for seafarers,” Platten said. “If our workers can’t pass through international borders, this will undoubtedly cause delays and disruptions in the supply chain. For a sector expected to help drive the global vaccination effort, this is totally unacceptable.”

Bud Darr, MSC Group’s executive vice president for maritime policy and government affairs, said that the industry could be devastated by the vaccine debate in the same press statement.

“The shipping industry needs to find creative solutions to the problem,” said Darr. “In the long term, it’s about exploring the idea of public-private partnerships. There may even be the opportunity when the initial surge of need is met for national allocation, for manufacturers to provide vaccinations directly to shipowners to allocate/administer to these key workers.”

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