Höegh Autoliners has signed the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing, along with 800 organisations, which calls on government bodies to recognise sailors as key workers and give them priority access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Travel and quarantine restrictions have been imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19, leaving many seafarers stranded on vessels, working beyond their contracts.

“Throughout the pandemic, seafarers have suffered greatly,” said Höegh Autoliners COO, Sebjørn Dahl. “Essentially stranded on board the vessels, they have been unable to disembark during port stays and many have had to stay on board beyond their original contract.

“Their hard work and dedication ensure goods are delivered around the world during challenging times. Prioritising vaccines for seafarers is vital to ease the crew change crisis and enable seafarers to return home to their loved ones.”

The World Health Organisation has recommended seafarers be among transport workers given priority for vaccines if supplies are low. The United Nations body has updated its vaccine roadmap guidance for governments, with special mention for seafarers stranded at sea by the crewing crisis.

However, Höegh Autoliners notes the last months have “shown great progress.” Local seafarers’ welfare organisations in ports around the US and other countries are facilitating vaccines for foreign seafarers.

Health officials board the vessel to vaccinate crew in port and in other places seafarers are offered vaccines by local health providers.

“Maintaining the safety and well-being of our people continues to be a top priority in Höegh,” added Sebjørn.

“With increased accessibility of vaccinations for our seafarers, we can maintain a safer working environment and uphold our commitment to safety, quality and operational excellence.”

Höegh Autoliners said it follows local situations closely and keeps vessels updated on any new developments concerning the vaccination roll out.

“Vaccinations are an important step in restoring a level of normality post COVID-19, however, we must remain vigilant,” said Sebjørn.

“We also encourage seafarers and colleagues to continue to follow our stringent health and safety protocols, even after having the vaccine.”