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India: Maritime bodies press for early second dose of Covid-19 vaccine for seafarers

Maritime bodies press for early second dose of Covid-19 vaccine for seafarers
PTI / Aug 18, 2021

MUMBAI: Five Maritime bodies have appealed to the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) to allow seafarers take the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine earlier than the stipulated time frame in view of their safety and employability, a release said on Wednesday.
In early June, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had issued an SOP allowing certain categories of citizens to get their second dose of vaccination earlier (after 28 days).

Seafarers who came under the category of 'employment overseas' were beneficiaries of this SOP. However, it is valid only till August 31, as per the release.

The maritime industry has been demanding to accord 'priority' to seafarers in the vaccination drive in view of the nature of their work.

Five industry associations - FOSMA, MASSA, INSA (Indian National Shipowners' Association (INSA) ICC Shipping Association (ICCSA) and 'The Company of Master Mariners of India (CMMI)-- have collectively appealed to the DGS to extend the validity of this SOP and allow seafarers to keep receiving their second dose of vaccination after 28 days, the release said.

"The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was very proactive in reducing the time gap between the two Covishield, which is the only WHO-approved vaccine in India at present, doses to 28 days between the first and second dose.

"This relaxation was given to three categories of citizens. First being our citizens involved with the Olympic Games, our citizens being employed abroad and finally our citizens who are students studying abroad. This is valid until August 31 mostly due to the completion of the Olympic Games. However Indian citizens need to be continuously employed abroad, the seafarers come under this category of citizens and the same applies to students going abroad," said Capt Sankalp Shukla, Chairman, Foreign Ship-owners Representatives and Ship Managers Association (FOSMA).

"In view of this, it was decided by these five maritime bodies to send a joint appeal to the ministry via DG Shipping's office to continue the relaxation of the gap of 28 days between the two vaccines for seafarers," he said.

Seafarers are responsible for transporting over 80 percent of all goods around the world, including food, medicine, and vaccine supplies - and have continued to do so despite extremely challenging circumstances, it said, adding, now not extending the validity of the SOP for Indian seafarers could very well "effect" their employment prospects adversely.

On the other hand, a 'fully vaccinated' Indian seafarer is at low risk on board, and is preferred by employers, said the release.
"Safety and employability of seafarers needs to be at the focal point of our attention. A fully vaccinated seafarer will not only contribute to his own safety but also the whole 'ecosystem' including his colleagues on board. As a labour supply country, well-being and employability of our seafarers should be a national agenda," said Shiv Halbe, CEO, Maritime Association of Shipowners
Shipmanagers and Agents (MASSA).

The 28-day period between successive vaccine doses allowed for Indian seafarers has had a great positive impact on seafarers being permitted to travel across international borders more freely, the Maritime bodies said in the release.