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Intercargo: Dry bulk sector hit the hardest by ‘vaccination lottery’

The vaccination lottery that is faced by the industry is beginning to hit the dry bulk sector hardest, says the International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (Intercargo).

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The argument is being made as a growing number of ports start to request that all crew on board a vessel must be vaccinated as a pre-condition of entering their ports, with some even insisting on a particular brand of vaccine.

This is, of course, a very serious problem for the industry as a whole, when we consider the high proportion of seafarers that come from developing countries with no access to any vaccine at all,” says Dimitris Fafalios, Chairman of Intercargo.

“The dry bulk sector is, however, bearing the brunt of this uncertainty due to the nature of its business. Bulk carriers on tramp trading call at many more ports than other shipping sectors and are at the mercy of the nationalized vaccination policy, applying at the port of call.”

As around 200,000 seafarers continue to work beyond their contract terms, the sector is still faced with inaction from some charterers and states to designate seafarers as key workers and prioritize them for vaccination.

Some nations don’t anticipate widespread vaccination until 2024, and with the rise of new variants, it is unclear what the impact of the first round of vaccinations will be.

“Co-ordinating a worldwide vaccination programme for seafarers under WHO and making WHO approved vaccinations available to seafarers in their home country is an urgent priority. In addition, universal commitments for collective action are imperative to resolve the humanitarian crisis at sea with crew change, and to keep global trade moving,” Fafalios said.

In the bulk carrier sector, there are close to 12,000 vessels employing over 300,000 seafarers globally, calling at more than 1,500 ports around the world.

This is yet another call for prioritization of vaccinations in the transport sector echoing the recent statements from the heads of five UN organizations.

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Intercargo is participating in a joint industry Vaccination Taskforce, led by the International Chamber of Shipping. The group has produced guidance on the legal, liability and insurance issues arising from the vaccination of seafarers and is also working on developing a preliminary list of vaccination hub ports.