MNWB writes to Vaccines and Public Health Minister

Covid certification process for seafarers needs urgent review, says leading maritime charity in open letter to Maggie Throup MP

The Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB) has issued a rallying cry to the UK Government to provide much-needed clarity on the certification process for seafarers who have been vaccinated.

In a letter to the Vaccines and Public Health Minister Maggie Throup MP, the Board says seafarers must be given a certificate that proves they have been vaccinated to ensure they can work freely across the world and enable smooth crew changes.

It comes as seafarers, who come from a variety of countries across the world, cannot gain vaccination confirmation as they are not NHS registered and are unable to use the official NHS Covid-19 App.

While they may receive a handwritten card that confirms a vaccination, there have been reports of seafarers returning home and authorities not accepting their vaccination status – being provided with a different barcode to the rest of the UK population for proof of vaccination status.

Consequently, this has caused huge amounts of disruption to the maritime sector.

Stuart Rivers, new Chief Executive of the MNWB which is the umbrella charity for the UK Merchant Navy & Fishing Fleets and operates a nationwide network of seafarers’ welfare boards, said:

“All sectors have been affected in one way or another by Covid, and the maritime industry is no different. While it’s encouraging that so many seafarers have been vaccinated during their visits to UK ports, not being able to prove their vaccination status is proving damning in the search of job opportunities and repatriation.”

“With this is mind, these sector-wide concerns need to be acted upon – sooner rather than later. From a domestic and international perspective, it is extremely important that certification for seafarers can be recognised by other Nation States and we believe our certification proposal, if implemented, would be a real boost for the sector. But if not, this problem could continue to escalate and create more avoidable hardships for merchant seafarers.”

Issues around certification were first raised in a COVID-19 Seafarers’ Welfare Working Group (SWWG) more than six months ago. The group, launched by the MNWB when the pandemic began, has gathered cross-industry support with over 30 organisations, including Department of Transport, UK Chamber of Shipping and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Additionally, the MNWB acts act as the UK National Seafarers’ Welfare Board in accordance with ILO Maritime Labour Convention 2006 Regulation 4.4 after signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in May 2021.

Read the letter here