22 January 2020
London. UK. Human Rights at Sea Advisory Board member, Captain Michael Lloyd RD**,MNM, CMMar, FNI has followed up an earlier correspondence to the IMO Secretary General, with a new letter directed to the Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, the UK Secretary of State for Transport requesting engagement on the issue of inoculating seafarers as frontline key workers who are keeping world maritime trade flowing during the global pandemic.
With express permission, the text of the letter is reproduced below.
The Minister of TransportHouse of Commons,London.
Dear Mr Shapps,
As you know, those serving at sea on the ships, regardless of their nationality, are an essential service to international trade. Again, as you also know, many of these have been poorly served by their Companies, the Flag States, and the IMO that is supposed to care for them, in their forced detention on many ships around the world.
Regardless of this, the ships continue to serve international trade throughout the world, without which all our countries would be in a disastrous state economically and, for many of us, lacking in food supplies which would lead to severe consequences for our populations.
While we are busy inoculating our own people and, rightly so, they expect to come first, I must remind you that, thanks to the failure of those claiming leadership of the world shipping,, no one is yet putting any system in place for inoculating those on the ships.
The only possible way in which we can inoculate the seafarers on the world shipping is that rather than dealing with the problem nationally, we all accept joint responsibility. After all, most of our ships are under other flags such as Barbados, the Virgin Islands, Panama and Liberia, none of whom have the resources or interests in dealing with the problem on the ships registered with them.I have written to the IMO with no response, but again with their failures in the recent past regarding the relief of seafarers from their ships, and their inability to accept any form of responsibility, the only avenue left is that we lead the international community through the UN to accept international responsibility.This could be done by instituting a worldwide programme by the Flag States, to accept that seafarers are front-line workers for us all, and assume the responsibility for an inoculation programme for those on the ships that enter their ports, regardless of nationality of the seafarer or the nationality of the ship,It is only in this way that we can ensure that the world seafarers are going to have the opportunity of being vaccinated. If the UK government could accept this and announce that it was going to start such a programme, that would be a superb example of leadership from a premier maritime nation.
Vaccination of Seafarers as Key Workers
The issue of COVID-19 inoculations for seafarers is being urgently raised across the maritime industry and comes on the back of the poor response by IMO Member States in backing a unified response to class seafarers as key workers.
As highlighted by the IMO, Secretary General, Kitack Lim reflecting on the 24 November 2020 UN General Assembly Resolution ‘International cooperation to address challenges faced by seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to support global supply chains‘, he stated that: “‘I hope that the key worker designation will ensure that seafarers can be vaccinated expeditiously. This will go some way to resolving the ongoing crew change crisis,”.
NB: The opinions expressed in the reproduced letter are those of the author.