Access to medical care for seafarers is a matter of life and death


Joint IMO-ILO statement emphasizes need for rapid access to medical assistance for essential seafarers

Receiving medical care can be a matter of life and death for sailors who fall ill while working on ships.

The Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Director-General of the International Labor Organization (ILO) issued a joint statement calling on port and coastal states to facilitate the rapid disembarkation of seafarers for medical treatment medical in the context of “life or death”; prioritize seafarers for COVID-19 vaccination; and to identify seafarers as key workers, recognizing the valuable contribution of seafarers to world trade.

In the joint statement (Circular Letter No. 4204 / Add.42), IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim and ILO Director General Guy Rider say seafarers have difficulty accessing to medical care and underline “the moral obligation to ensure that seafarers take care ashore without delay, whenever they need it, and to extend medical assistance on board when necessary by authorizing medical and qualified dentists to visit ships. It is also important that a medical evaluation is carried out before administering any treatment, which could include a telemedicine evaluation provided by international health providers. “

“Receiving such care can be a matter of life and death for seafarers who fall ill while working on ships. The international community must do everything possible to support those who have kept the global supply chain in pandemic conditions for the past 18 months and often continue despite enormous personal difficulties, ”said the ILO Director-General and the Secretary General of IMO. .

The joint statement notes that “almost 14 months after issuing the ‘Recommendations for Port and Coastal States on the Prompt Disembarkation of Seafarers for Medical Care ashore During the COVID-19 Pandemic’ (Circular Letter No. 4204 / Add.23), seafarers are still struggling to access this care when needed. Advocacy by Member States, the maritime industry, social partners and seafarers themselves has once again brought the plight of seafarers to the fore.

As provided for in the 2006 ILO Maritime Labor Convention (MLC 2006), it is the responsibility of member states to ensure that seafarers on board ships in their territory have access to medical facilities ashore, ” they need immediate medical care, including dental treatment (see the resolution concerning the implementation and practical application of the MLC, 2006 during the COVID-19 pandemic, adopted by the special tripartite commission of the MLC , 2006 in April 2021.) The legal obligation to provide assistance to seafarers in distress, including medical assistance, is also an intrinsic component of the IMO conventions, namely the International Convention for the Safety of Life in sea ​​(SOLAS); the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR); and the Convention for the Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL).

The joint declaration again urges governments to recognize the strategic importance of the maritime sector and, in line with United Nations General Assembly resolution A / 75/17 adopted on December 1, 2020, to designate seafarers as workers keys and treat them as such by providing them with access to medical care. Circular Letter 4204 / Add.35 / Rev.7 contains the current list of IMO Member States that have notified IMO that they have appointed seafarers (and other maritime personnel, if applicable) as key workers.

Governments are urged to prioritize seafarers in their national COVID-19 vaccination programs, in line with the WHO SAGE roadmap to prioritize the uses of COVID-19 vaccines in the context of limited supplies, updated July 16, 2021, and to offer

Vaccines approved by WHO on the Emergency Use List (EUL) to ensure their immunization status is recognized internationally. The list of EUL vaccines approved by WHO is available at

ILO and IMO leaders are also encouraging governments to recognize the role that other maritime personnel play in facilitating global trade and, where possible, to vaccinate them as a priority as well.

Information received by IMO and ILO indicates that 24 countries have so far responded to the bugle call by implementing vaccination programs for seafarers, or by signaling their intention to do so, in designated ports under their jurisdiction. A list of these countries and their constituent ports can be accessed at

The joint statement said: “We are extremely grateful to these countries, but we urge more to move forward to speed up, in particular, the vaccination of seafarers serving international shipping. Government agencies, industry, unions and seafarer welfare groups continue to work diligently to facilitate and / or provide vaccines to seafarers. However, much remains to be done. We will continue to work with our sister United Nations agencies, governments and industry bodies to meet the current needs of seafarers and protect their human rights, so that they can continue to facilitate the global economy.

/ Public distribution. This material is from the original organization / authors and may be ad hoc in nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author (s). See it in full here.


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