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Cyprus maintains momentum in driving progress for seafarers

As part of the Cyprus Shipping Deputy Ministry’s three-phase consultation programme to co-create a long-term maritime strategy, the third and final phase of the campaign focusses on the external factors impacting shipping. This phase includes the issues surrounding crew changes, seafarers living and working conditions, seafarer vaccinations, as well as the ever present threat of piracy. This area of focus aims to pave the way for the industry to tackle them in a constructive and effective manner, with long-term benefits.

The Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC 2006) was adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to consolidate all the previous ILO standards, which were addressing issues relating to seafarers, into a single treaty. Now, the MLC 2006 is in force in 97 countries and provides the acceptable standards for working and living on board.

The international maritime community continues to adopt improvements in the MLC 2006 and is presently discussing a variety of related matters. This includes crew accommodation and recreation facilities, food and catering issues, medical care, health and safety protection and accident prevention, access to shore-based welfare facilities and social security.

COVID-19 has, undoubtedly, brought the social welfare of seafarers into the spotlight. The global vaccine rollout was bringing cautious optimism to shipping, as it is for the world at large. However, the impact of COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on seafarer welfare, and the disruption to cargo movement and port operations is significant. The crew change crisis has become a humanitarian issue which has taken its toll on the mental and physical wellbeing of seafarers and their shore-side colleagues alike.

The impact of these changes will continue to be felt through 2021 and beyond and it is essential for the industry to continue to prioritise this crisis and find effective solutions now. Cyprus has always been dedicated to social responsibility and taking a proactive approach to the global challenges faced by shipping. Following a suggested approach to a global seafarer vaccination program in February 2021, Cyprus was pleased to have its campaign officially adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as a formal resolution in May 2021.

The approach requires social partners, in consultation with shipowners’ and seafarers’ organizations and in coordination with governments and the IMO, to undertake a mapping exercise to identify the number of vaccines required for seafarers ashore. In addition, governments and shipowners’ and seafarers’ organizations are invited to formulate a resolution, communicating to all relevant UN bodies the need for a collective approach to secure the number of vaccines identified.

We are currently engaging in active conversations with the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Workers’ Federation to define the way forward and put this plan into action to maintain momentum with seafarer vaccinations.

As the COVID-19 situation matures, it is imperative that the welfare of seafarers remains at the heart of operational safety. This will be achieved through a collaborative process of discussion and impactful action, which is why the Cyprus SDM wants to hear from you – a valued member of the maritime community. We value your opinions, and believe them integral to the development of an optimal future for shipping. We look forward to working together to deliver the support which our international key workers need and deserve.

To contribute to Cyprus’ strategic vision for shipping, please visit the website www.cyshippingstrategy.com and submit your feedback by responding to the relevant questions.