If seafarers are not vaccinated in good time, problems may arise with relieving people at sea, warns the Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners (KNVR). The association fears possible measures by, for example, airlines and countries, such as making a vaccination certificate compulsory.
In the first months of the virus outbreak, crew members at sea were sometimes stuck at sea for months because flights were cancelled and countries went into lockdown.
If extra measures such as a vaccination certificate are implemented, seafarers would no longer be able to travel if the home country, for example, does not yet have a vaccine. ‘We are looking with great trepidation at the consequences for seafarers who have not yet been vaccinated,’ says KVNR Director Annet Koster. The association wants seafarers to be vaccinated so that they can travel more easily.
Dutch shipping companies do not have crew stuck at sea
This would also help prevent illness at sea. The Dutch shipping industry does not currently have any problems with people who are stuck at sea, Koster knows. According to her, relieving people in Covid times is an ongoing problem, but Dutch shipowners have learned from problems in the past. For example, they have found other ports and built in extra time to change crews in case a flight is cancelled.
According to the KVNR, the Netherlands has around 5000 seafarers. Dutch ships employ a total of around 30,000 seafarers, including international staff. Of these, less than half are now at sea, the rest are at home until they are relieved. Approximately 2000 ships sail under Dutch management, half of which under the Dutch flag. Worldwide, 1.2 million people work on more than 50,000 seagoing vessels.
Talks with Ministry and KLM
This week, the sector association will hold talks with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. ‘We are not going to shout that we want to be at the top of the vaccination list, because public health is rightly key, but we do want to prevent the seafarer from falling between the cracks. The KVNR is also in talks with airline KLM about ‘what services KLM can offer at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol when it comes to vaccinations’. The two parties had previously worked together on airlifts, so that seafarers could come home after all.
Also read: Airline KLM comes to the rescue of seafarers
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