Looking towards 2021, Sophia Bullard, Crew Welfare Director at UK P&I Club, eagerly anticipates the rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine and calls for more gender diversity at sea:
“2020 has been an extremely difficult year for seafarers, with Covid-19 bringing mass disruption and uncertainty, resulting in huge numbers of crew being stranded at sea and suffering loss of income. But, the tantalising promise of the roll out of vaccine programmes in 2021, as well as the increasing focus on crew mental health and wellbeing, brings hope.
“Once the vaccines have passed the scrutiny of the various government regulatory agencies, we will see them filter into the workforce. Seafarers, as identified key workers and a vital cog in the global trade mechanism, should be near the front of the queue. Mass vaccination will make global shipping operations more efficient and cost effective, and will significantly ease the current freedom of movement restrictions on seafarers.
“Once a Covid-19 vaccine becomes widely available, the UK Club’s Pre-employment Medical Examination (PEME) Programme will consider its adoption at crew entry level, and shipping companies may opt for their crew to be vaccinated as a pre-requisite of employment.
“Theoretically, with travel and quarantine constraints removed, it should mean the end to difficulties surrounding repatriation and crew changes, which became a humanitarian crisis in 2020. This in turn would lessen the load on seafarers from a mental health perspective, and bring a return to much needed normality in 2021.
UK Club Crew Health Programme looks to 2021
“Within the UK Club’s Crew Health Programme, we hope 2021 will bring a reconnection to our global clinic network, membership and suppliers. We will continue to develop new areas of coverage to include more clinics in the UK and Europe along with consolidation in the Far East regions, as well as providing ongoing support our network of charity partners through sponsorship and knowledge sharing.
“One area the Club wants to see real progress is in addressing the gender balance within the industry, particularly for those at sea. While onshore we have made strides in gender equality, there is still a long way to go at sea. We passionately feel a more equal workforce will enrich seafarers’ job satisfaction and may help remedy some of the most prevalent mental wellbeing issues.”