Singapore to offer Covid-19 vaccines to non-resident foreign seafarers

The Sea Crew Vaccination Initiative will offer Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty or Moderna vaccines to crew who stay for more than 30 days and who work in the supply of essential goods or ferrying passengers.
The Sea Crew Vaccination Initiative will offer Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty or Moderna vaccines to crew who stay for more than 30 days and who work in the supply of essential goods or ferrying passengers.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Eligible, non-resident foreign seafarers will have the option of receiving Covid-19 vaccinations in Singapore starting on Monday (Aug 30), said Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat.

The Sea Crew Vaccination Initiative (Seavax) will offer Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty or Moderna vaccines to crew who stay for more than 30 days and who work in the supply of essential goods or ferrying passengers.

This includes those on board cruise ships docked in Singapore during the off-peak season, ships under repair in shipyards, yachts at marinas, fishing vessels, ship supply vessels and regional ferries.

"As a global hub port and international maritime centre, Singapore will also support the global vaccination drive for seafarers. This will add an additional layer of protection for them against the virus, and enhance supply chain resilience," said Mr Chee in his opening address at the International Safety @ Sea Week, an annual conference organised by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).

"Such seafarers may interact with our local community in the course of their work, so protecting them through vaccinations is part of our national effort to become a Covid-19 resilient nation."

In a statement on Monday, MPA said companies or seafarers should be prepared to pay for the vaccines, which will be administered at designated sites close to the crew. 

Royal Caribbean, for example, anticipates that the crew onboard its Quantum of the Seas cruise ship will be fully vaccinated by early October.

With Seavax, Singapore will join a global network of ports - including in Europe and the United States - that offers vaccinations to international seafarers, said Mr Chee.

About 82 per cent of the 7,500 resident seafarers working in Singapore's port waters have been fully vaccinated, MPA said.

Mr Chee also addressed safety and piracy matters in his speech.

While the number of major safety incidents per 100,000 vessel movements within Singapore territorial waters has fallen from 1.6 in 2011 to zero in 2020, the Republic must remain prepared, he said, pointing to recent fires and grounding cases.

In May, the Singapore-registered X-Press Pearl vessel was carrying 25 tonnes of nitric acid as well as other chemicals and cosmetics when it caught fire and spilled oil and chemicals into the sea off Sri Lanka. A massive environmental disaster ensued, with beaches damaged and dead marine animals washing ashore.

Thanking the Sri Lankan and Singapore authorities for their quick action in evacuating the crew and mitigating the environmental impact, Mr Chee said technical experts and oil spill response equipment from Singapore were flown in to complement efforts and resources on the scene.

"Currently, efforts are under way to remove the wreck and clean up the beaches. Investigations into the cause of the fire are in progress," he added.

"We must draw lessons from this incident, and collectively strengthen our response capabilities and take preventive actions to avoid a similar incident from happening in the future."

Mr Chee also flagged the continued occurrence of piracy incidents on board ships under way in the Singapore Strait as a concern.

There were 20 incidents in the first half of this year, up from 16 incidents in all of 2020.

All 20 occurred outside of Singapore waters, so they need to be tackled through joint enforcement actions with neighbouring countries, he said.