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SG/SM/20939
30 September 2021

Governments Must Designate Seafarers ‘Key Workers’, Ensure COVID-19 Vaccine Access, Safe Crew Changes, Secretary-General Says in World Maritime Day Message

Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message for World Maritime Day, observed today:

The theme of this year’s World Maritime Day — “Seafarers:  at the core of shipping’s future” — pays tribute to the professionalism and resilience of seafarers and recognizes their indispensable role in securing vital global supply chains and transporting over 80 per cent of world trade in extraordinarily challenging times.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to place immense physical and mental pressures on the 2 million women and men who serve on the world’s merchant fleet.  Hundreds of thousands still face extended times at sea, with tours of duty stretching many months beyond their contracts.  Unable to go to shore, repatriate and change crews, and without access to medical care, seafarers face a humanitarian crisis that jeopardizes the safety and the future of shipping.

I renew my appeal to Governments to address their plight by formally designating seafarers and other marine personnel as “key workers”, ensuring safe crew changes, implementing established protocols and allowing stranded seafarers to be repatriated and others to join ships.

These critical workers must have access to national vaccination programmes, and provisions should be made to vaccinate international seafarers at designated ports.  Governments have a duty to comply with relevant international treaty obligations to render assistance to any seafarers in distress, including medical assistance, ensuring rights and needs of seafarers are respected.

Looking ahead, seafarers will play a critical role helping advance shipping’s move towards ever higher standards of safety and sustainability, in turn helping the sector do its vital part in building a sustainable future for people and planet.

For information media. Not an official record.