Queensland will become the first Australian jurisdiction to administer COVID vaccines to all international seafarers arriving in local ports, with a trial program commencing in the coming weeks aimed at reducing the risk of serious illness and community transmission.
Maritime Safety Queensland, working with QLD Health, has developed a vaccination program that will commence with high-risk vessels, ships that visit Australian ports on a regular schedule, those that carry liquid fuels, and finally all other vessels arriving at QLD ports.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), along with employer organizations Maritime Industry Australia Ltd and Shipping Australia, has welcomed the initiative that will not only protect the health of seafarers but strengthen Australia’s supply chains.
ITF Australia Coordinator Ian Bray said ten percent of the world’s sea trade passes through Australian ports, with maritime supply chains responsible for delivering essential goods and taking Australia’s exports to the world.
“International seafarers are the backbone of the economy, but a growing number of COVID outbreaks on vessels arriving in Australian ports highlights the need for urgent action to protect the health of these workers, reduce the risk of community transmission, and strengthen supply chain resilience,” Mr. Bray said.
“Many of the vessels that travel through Australian ports visit regularly — often on the same routes — making it easy to administer both doses of vaccine to seafarers over a period of months,” said Bray.
“Even for crews that only visit an Australian port once, the health advice is that a single dose of vaccine significantly reduces the risk of them requiring hospitalization.”
ITF President and Maritime Union of Australia National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the Australian Government should immediately take the model to the National Cabinet so that it can be rolled out around the country.
“This Australian-first model developed by Maritime Safety Queensland and QLD Health has the potential to save countless lives and should be taken to National Cabinet as a matter of urgency so it can be implemented around the country,” Mr. Crumlin said.
“Without ships, Australia’s economy would grind to a halt, which is why COVID testing of all international seafarers arriving in Australian ports, the provision of healthcare to sick workers, and a national plan to vaccinate the entire workforce is so important.
“This approach would also be consistent with Australia’s legal obligations as a signatory to the Maritime Labour Convention, which make it responsible for the health and welfare of the seafarers that arrive in our ports,” he said.