Cyprus has issued a Circular pledging COVID-19 vaccination to seafarers serving on board Cyprus flagged and managed vessels, while exploring the possibility of becoming a global vaccination hub.
On 25 June 2021, the Cyprus Shipping Deputy Ministry (SDM) issued Circular No.27/2021 on ‘Vaccines against the COVID-19 virus’ (‘the Circular’), to coincide with the International Day of the Seafarer. The Circular is addressed to (a) Owners and Managers of ship flying the Cyprus flag and (b) Ship managers operating in Cyprus.
Cyprus has demonstrated initiative throughout the COVID-19 crisis. In particular, it was one of the first countries to implement formal crew changes during the pandemic, and to permit long-term stay in anchorage. These measures were in addition to deadline extensions to Certificates of Competency, Certificates of Proficiency, Medical Fitness Certificates, Seafarer’s Identification, and Sea Service Record Books, all subject to strict conditions provided safety was not compromised. The overall result has been repatriation or return to work for over 20,000 seafarers since adoption of the crew change process in May 2020. In addition, Cyprus submitted a proposal for a global seafarers vaccination program to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the International Chamber of Shipping, the International Transport Federation and the European Union, now officially adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) under a formal resolution.
The Circular aims to provide COVID-19 vaccination focusing on seafarers serving on board (including those scheduled for repatriation) starting 1 July 2021 on a first come first served basis, provided they serve on ships which (i) are flying the Cyprus flag, and (ii) are managed by a legal entity based and taxed in Cyprus, and the ship calls, anchorages or is roadstead located in Cyprus.
The vaccines will be provided by qualified medical staff free of charge, following an application addressed to the SDM under the model provided in Annex 1 of the Circular. Annex 2 provides the Record of Vaccination, to be completed and dispatched by the master post vaccination to the SDM and ultimately the Ministry of Health, which serves as proof of vaccination. Collection, transport, storage and administration costs regarding the vaccines fall on the company requesting their provision.
It is also important to note that the Circular provides for a 24-48 hour period post-vaccination during which seafarers may experience non-allergic, non-anaphylalctic or other reactions and symptoms, and calls for the master to make contingency plans accordingly, which include ensuring adequate manpower both on deck and in the engine room.
Cypriot ambitions go further, and the SDM is currently contemplating Cyprus becoming a global vaccination hub for seafarers. Understandably, this requires collaboration with other nations, international organisations, and the wider shipping community to ensure, inter alia, the pooling of surplus vaccines. Talks are underway.