Union Fédérale Maritime (UFM), part of the French CFDT union and an affiliate of the Nautilus Federation, is calling on the French government to prioritise seafarers for Covid-19 vaccinations.
In a petition addressed to the prime minister of France Jean Castex, and to Annick Girardin, minister of the sea, UFM calls on seafarers in France to be recognised as key workers and for the government to set an international example by helping to resolve the crew change crisis in this way.
The petition's author, from the Normandy branch of UFM, highlighted a statement from the country’s armed forces minister, who expressed the urgent need for seafarers serving onboard the Marine Nationale (French Navy) flagship Charles De Gaulle to be vaccinated: 'This vaccination campaign is natural and obvious because this vessel will navigate in areas where there is no possibility of medical evacuation or, if these possibilities exist, they can take days.'
UFM notes that medical facilities onboard merchant vessels are unlikely to be as extensive as those found onboard an aircraft carrier, and that medical evacuations may take even longer to arrange without wider naval support.
Prioritising seafarers for vaccination against Covid-19, the petition says, will ease the crew change crisis and will offer reciprocal protection during contact with shore-based personnel and local populations.
Thierry Le Guével, general secretary of UFM, said: 'Seafarers have worked hard throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, transporting 90% of goods – including vital medical supplies – in difficult working conditions. It is now time for the French government to recognise the role of seafarers by prioritising them for vaccination.'