Global shipping industry hit by India’s second COVID-19 wave
The second growing wave of COVID-19 infections in India has struck a blow to the global shipping industry as India is one of the largest suppliers of crews. The sudden surge in coronavirus infections and the shortage of vaccines have left ship workers dry.
Global ports, according to DW, now slam the doors of the Indian crew and ships. Companies insist that workers and seafarers be vaccinated. And that signals bad news for an already strained maritime sector.
Sheikh Karim, a sailor from Odisha, told DW that he repeatedly tried to find a location on a government website designated for a COVID-19 vaccine in his hometown of Balasore, but to no avail. “I don’t know when I will get the first dose of the vaccine. It’s frustrating because I see jobs for freighters and tankers paying in dollars, ”Karim said. “The cost of living is increasing and there are additional costs of health care and hospitalization for my family and loved ones who receive COVID.” For now, the 27-year-old has found a job as a mechanic in an auto workshop.
There are thousands and thousands of sailors like Karim who are struggling to make ends meet in the middle of the second wave. They cannot leave the country. In addition, maritime authorities have advised Indian crews currently at sea not to leave the ship until the situation improves.
Abdulgani Serang, Secretary General of the National Union of Seafarers in India, said DW the main problem is that seafarers have been designated as essential workers, both nationally and in several other countries. “This means the government should give them priority vaccinations. But this is not happening in India. Serang said maritime authorities have set up dedicated vaccination facilities for seafarers at port hospitals in cities like Mumbai, Kolkata and Kochi. “But the main problem is that the vaccines are just not available.”
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It is estimated that the 240,000 Indian seafarers are mostly between the ages of 18 and 45, an age group that was supposed to receive Indian-made vaccines – Covishield and Covaxin, from May 1. blows. “Unvaccinated Indian seafarers are now at a disadvantage compared to people of other nationalities who could take up their jobs, for example Indonesians or Chinese who have received priority vaccinations in their own country,” said Serang. “There is no general ban on Indian crews, but the shipowners are afraid to take them away.”
In addition, the ports of Singapore and Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates have banned vessels from changing crew that have recently traveled from India. This made it difficult for seafarers to be relieved at the end of their contract.