World Maritime Day is dedicated this year to “Seafarers: at the core of shipping’s future”. The spotlight will be on the heroism of sea professionals who keep global supply chains moving in pandemic times and uninterruptedly run vessels to bring essential goods like food, medicines and energy all over the world. Yet, going through an unprecedented crew change crisis, many seafarers have been unable to disembark their ships because of travel restrictions and did not get promptly available access to vaccines, just to name two of the most urgent items on the global agenda.
Multiple interventions have been undertaken by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) culminating in the UN General Assembly Resolution adopted on December 1, 2020 which invited member states to recognise seafarers as key workers.
On behalf of the European shipping industry, ECSA fully supported the ‘Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change’, launched in January 2021 to urge policymakers to end the deepening crew change crisis and give seafarers priority access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Additionally, on January 21, 2021 ECSA addressed an open letter to all EU Member States, copied to the heads of the EU institutions, requesting them to show leadership and international solidarity in tackling this stage of the global fight against the pandemic. The letter also highlighted the dire need to put seafarers on Member States’ priority list for vaccination, and to implement high-quality crew change protocols to uphold seafarers’ well-being and prevent further disruptions to the supply chains. Moreover, in July 2021 European social partners ECSA and ETF welcomed the WHO updated guidance for the organisation’s vaccine roadmap, in line with our previous calls for seafarers’ priority access to vaccination and praise the initiatives already in place in a number of European countries.
Finally, a bright future for seafarers is composed of many factors, “but one of them is certainly adequate training” – added Martin Dorsman, ECSA Secretary General on the latest Day of the Seafarer; “constant training is required for the crews already active in the global fleets and for the youngsters who have chosen the job of seafarer as their future profession. At European level, ECSA and ETF work on improving the education and training of seafarers through the EU-funded SkillSea project”.