On 25 June each year, the International Day of the Seafarer is celebrated. The day is observed to recognize and raise awareness about the critical role of seafarers in global commerce. Today, we stand in solidarity with the seafarers who have been caught in the crossfire of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
International border shutdowns as a result of COVID-19 have impacted migrant workers worldwide, both on land and sea. International seafarers, about two million of whom work onboard commercial vessels play a key role in the global economy. Prior to COVID-19, approximately 80% of global trade was carried by cargo ships. And even during the pandemic, seafarers all around the globe have worked tirelessly to keep global trade and commerce afloat.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has chosen the theme "A Fair Future for Seafarers" for International Day of the Seafarer 2021 in order to work toward a more equitable future for seafarers worldwide. Thousands of seafarers continue to face barriers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Repatriation, shore leave, and medical assistance continue to be difficult to obtain. Although the number of seafarers affected by the crew change crisis has decreased significantly, the numbers remain unacceptably high.
As part of its efforts to recognize the unique and critical role played by seafarers in international shipping and around the world, the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has stated that seafarers should be given priority access to COVD-19 vaccines in order to protect themselves and subsequently the world.
"Vaccinations are our passport to return to some degree of normality. Vaccinations are the way we restore our rights," said David W. Heindel, the chair of ITF Seafarers. "We know that the only way that governments will reliably and consistently restore seafarers’ rights to crew change, shore leave and medical access, is for the virus to be gone. That is, practically eliminated in the community onshore and offshore."
the International Day of the Seafarer is observed to express gratitude to all the seafarers for their contributions to the world economy and civil society, in addition to the risks and personal costs they bear while performing their duties at sea.
IMO also recommended that Member States consider exempting seafarers from any national policy requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of entry, taking into consideration that seafarers should be designated as "key workers" due to the frequency with which they travel across borders.