MARITIME Safety Queensland is investigating a trial program to vaccinate international seafarers who visit the state’s ports.

A spokesperson from the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads said MSQ has identified the importance of vaccinating international seafarers whose health and safety are critical to the continuity of shipping, supply chains and essential trade.

“MSQ is in the initial stages of an investigation into a trial vaccination program and working with Queensland Health over coming weeks to identify factors which would have to be considered before any trial could proceed,” the spokesperson said.

“Vaccination of crews of higher-risk ships regularly visiting Queensland ports would have to be assessed against the current state and national vaccination rollout strategy.

“Issues such as vaccine availability, delivery to remote locations, pre-booking, follow-up booster shots and crew consent need to be comprehensively addressed as part of the trial.”

The International Transport Workers’ Federation has welcomed the initiative. The ITF said the program would not only protect the health of seafarers but strengthen Australia’s supply chains.

ITF Australia co-ordinator Ian Bray said international seafarers are the backbone of the economy, but a growing number of COVID-19 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,

“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,” Mr Bray said.

“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 hospitalisation.”

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.”