The call to vaccinate crew has intensified after cruise companies slowed their recruitment from India because of its COVID crisis.
Unions have been calling for seafarers to be given priority for vaccines since the beginning of the crisis. With increased travel restrictions imposed in India, companies are taking a 'wait and see' approach and some companies have suspended all recruitment.
This is a major blow to the cruise industry. India is an important country for the industry and many Indians hold key positions in food and beverage and housekeeping. Recent estimates show that around 15% of all cruise crew came from India. This is compared to 30% from Philippines and 11% from Indonesia.
What happens next will be cruicial as the cruise industry slowly starts up again. If this trend spreads to other Asian countries, the impact could be even greater.
Whilst there have been vaccination programmes for seafarers in Bali, Singapore and, very recently, the USA, many home countries of seafarers have not made them a priority.
It is calls from unions and other international organisations, such as the IMO and ILO, that have been putting pressure on governments to vaccinate seafarers as key workers. The ITF recently pointed out that seafarers have been disproportionately affected by quarantine, testing and travel restrictions as it is part of their job to cross borders.
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