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THE Australian Mariners’ Welfare Society is the latest local industry body to call for seafarers to be provided with access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The organisation on Friday sent a letter to the secretary for the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications saying that there is a critical need to ensure all seafarers are given the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

In the letter, AMWS chair David Parmeter wrote seafarers can be considered a unique population with their own needs, constraints and requirements for international travel.

“To protect the health of seafarers and the general public, and to minimise disruptions to trade and global supply chains, vaccination of seafarers is considered essential. This is particularly important for Australia, as we are so dependent on international shipping not only for imports and exports, but domestic shipping services as well,” Mr Parmeter wrote.

“Vaccination of seafarers in their home countries is the preferred option but it is critical steps now be taken to permit access to vaccination for seafarers from all countries while they are in Australia.”

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Other industry bodies have issued calls to the federal government to help seafarers and other essential supply-chain workers have access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Australian Logistics Council, the Freight and Trade Alliance and the Australian Peak Shippers Association wrote to the then-deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, and health minister Greg Hunt, asking them to provide priority vaccine access for critical high-risk workers in the supply-chain industries.

Maritime Industry Australia has also been advocating greater access to vaccines for seafarers. In a piece in DCN last month, MIAL CEO Teresa Lloyd wrote vessels and seafarers working in dedicated trade around the Australian coast should be treated as Australian, no matter their nationality or the vessel’s flag. This would mean, she wrote, that “all seafarers working in these trades can obtain a vaccine in Australia”.

Additionally, the UN has been calling for maritime and air transport workers to be prioritised for COVID-19 vaccination.

The heads of five UN organisations issued a statement in March saying these workers play a key role in supporting global trade and mobility and they play an important role in sustainable socio-economic recovery.

And, the International Chamber of Shipping in January called on governments to put seafarers and frontline maritime shore workers at the front of the vaccine queue and to designate seafarers key workers.

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