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Nigeria, others charged on seafarers, aircrew COVID-19 vaccination

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The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has called on Nigeria and other countries to prioritise seafarers and aircrew in the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination programmes.

This was contained in the United Nations bodies’ joint statement last week, urging member states to prioritise seafarers and aircrew in the national COVID-19 vaccination programmes.

This comes amidst concerns that lack of inoculation for vessel crews could leave the global supply chains vulnerable. The UN bodies comprise the World Health Organisation (WHO), International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Maritime Organisation (IMO), International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

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They also recognised the need for an interoperable global system of COVID-19 certificates to allow seafarers to continue to cross borders. This also comes on the heels of warnings by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) on vaccination becoming a compulsory requirement for work at sea.

The Secretary-General of ITF, Stephen Cotton, in a statement, said the COVID-19 and its impacts have been felt more acutely by transport workers and their families.

Cotton said while the transport workers have sacrificed so much for people to survive and as well keep the world moving, it is time to recognised and prioritise them in the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Also, the immediate past president, Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association (NMNO/WTSSA), Matthew Alalade, charged the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA) to ensure soft landing for seafarers to access the COVID-19 vaccine without bottlenecks.

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He said the port health offices should be reactivated to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to seafarers with their discharge papers before they go on board.

He said electronic self-registration for the COVID-19 vaccination as stipulated by the Lagos State government as prerequisite for accessing the vaccine is cumbersome, adding that seafarers should not be made to go through that process.

Alalade said the electronic protocols of getting access to vaccination should not arise on the part of seafarers, noting that the United States took the vaccination programme to seafarers and dockworkers at its busiest seaport complex.

He warned that the nation’s seafarers might be barred from entering other countries, just as the ICS said it was creating a ‘perfect storm’ for ship owners, who may be forced to cancel voyages if crew members are not vaccinated.

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