Singapore supports global initiative to vaccinate foreign seafarers : Chee Hong Tat

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Singapore’s maritime sector will work with local and global stakeholders to vaccinate foreign seafarers, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat.

The vaccination at Singapore’s ports will use a separate pool of vaccines outside the national stockpile, and could include vaccine types not currently under the national programme, he said.

This comes in response to the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) call for seaports around the world to make vaccinating sea crew members, many of whom are not their citizens, a priority.

The IMO or the shipping industry will have to secure the vaccines for ocean-going seafarers, Mr Chee said at the opening of the International Chamber of Shipping Leadership Insights series on Wednesday (July 7).

Singapore will then vaccinate them according to procedures that are safe and tight, developed here by Singapore’s shipping association, port operator, maritime unions and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.

Maritime stakeholders in Singapore are currently working out the protocols, Mr Chee added.

“As a global hub port and international maritime centre, Singapore strongly supports this initiative. It is key that we continue to balance public health risks and provide vaccination to the crew,” he said.

Vaccinating sea crew strengthens the resilience of global supply lines, including to Singapore, by reducing the rate of infection among shipping crew often cooped up for months in the same vessel.

It also reduces the health risks for Singapore port workers and shore-based personnel, who could, if exposed to the virus, pass on the virus to the community, Mr Chee said.

Singapore is one of the first countries in the world to prioritise the safety of seafarers amid Covid-19 by, for instance, creating “safe corridor” procedures for the changing of a ship’s crew here.

Since March last year, 145,000 crew changes have been done here, without any infection spreading from crew members to the community. The same “tried-and-tested” processes can be used in creating a vaccination procedure for these crew members, Mr Chee said.

Singapore, as a major maritime hub, has played its role to keep global supply chains flowing before and amid Covid-19, he said in his speech.

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