Port operator PSA International has signed an industry declaration calling for seafarers - the maritime sector's front-liners - to get priority for Covid-19 vaccinations.
It also pledged to work with the World Economic Forum (WEF) and 17 other partners to support Unicef in distributing vaccines under the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) scheme, it said.
The Neptune Declaration for Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change, which has garnered more than 300 signatures so far, sets out four actions to be taken in order to protect seafarers.
Apart from vaccines, the initiatives include implementing "gold standard" health protocols and facilitating crew changes by increasing collaboration between ship operators and charterers. It also calls for greater air connectivity for seafarers between maritime hubs.
"Fatigue after long periods at sea has significant consequences on the physical and mental well-being of seafarers," PSA said in its statement yesterday.
"As the front-liners of the maritime industry carrying 90 per cent of global trade, seafarers play an important role in the safety and integrity of maritime supply chains."
The pandemic has precipitated an unprecedented crew change crisis, with hundreds of thousands of seafarers turned away from ports in the past year over virus fears.
Singapore has put in place protocols to allow crew changes to take place, with more than 57,000 crew members from over 3,500 ships benefiting from this between March and November last year. It also plans to vaccinate more then 10,000 front-line workers in the maritime sector - including port workers, harbour pilots and cargo officers - by the end of this month.
PSA noted that sea freight will play an important role in the movement of medical supplies and equipment needed to carry out mass vaccinations.
In signing the WEF Supply Chain and Transport Industry Charter, it will offer access to its infrastructure, logistics knowledge, expertise and ground assistance in the worldwide vaccination effort, it said.
Apart from medical equipment, some vaccines currently in development - which are said to have a longer shelf life and require less stringent temperature controls - can be safely handled by refrigerated containers.
"In our interconnected and interdependent world, multi-stakeholder collaboration and action are key," said PSA International group chief executive Tan Chong Meng. He added that PSA is committed to ensuring the well-being of seafarers in its spheres of influence, and will do its part to enable the globally inclusive, safe and sustainable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.