Cyprus on Friday announced details of a Covid-19 vaccination plan for seafarers on any vessel linked to the country.

The announcement came after a senior Cypriot official said in a Capital Link conference on 17 June that the measure applies to crews vessels flying the Cypriot flag and of those managed from the nation.

According to official guidelines published on Friday, to coincide with the Day of the Seafarer, "vaccines will be administered by qualified medical staff to all seafarers working on board Cyprus-flagged ships, irrespective of the location of the vessel, and certificates provided".

"Vaccines will also be available to all seafarers serving on board vessels calling at Cypriot ports, regardless of flag, with close ties to Cyprus — such as ships managed by companies based in the country," the country said in a press release.

A total 40,000 seafarers will benefit from the measure, according to the press release. The actual government circular in question says the vaccines will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, as long as the stocks last".

Applications to provide the vaccines should be addressed to the Cypriot government. Shipping companies will have no choice as to which vaccine their seafarers ill receive.

Vaccines will be provided free of charge, at a point of collection designated by Cypriot authorities.

Companies requesting the provision of the vaccines are responsible and carry the cost of all necessary arrangements concerning collection, transport, storage, and administration of the vaccines, without charging seafarers for them.

Leading role

"We remain committed to finding a realistic approach to a global seafarer vaccination programme," Cyprus shipping deputy minister Vassilios Demetriades said.

"This responsibility starts at a national level, which is why we are providing vaccines to all seafarers on Cyprus-flagged and Cyprus-managed vessels."

Cyprus is Europe’s biggest shipmanagement hub, with an estimated 4% of the world's fleet operating out of the island nation.

About 2,200 ships are managed out of the country from about 200 companies that do business out of the Mediterranean island nation, including some of the best known names in the trade.

'Willing to act'. Vassilios Demetriades, Cypriot deputy minister in charge of shipping. Photo: Cyprus

The country's shipping registry is the world's 11th biggest and the third-biggest in Europe.

Given the weighty role played by shipping in the country’s economy, which accounts for about 7% of its total gross domestic product last year, its government has taken a leading role in helping to coordinate a global response to Covid-19.

Cyprus was one of the first nations to recognise seafarers as essential workers. According to Demetriades, more than 20,000 seafarers were repatriated or underwent a crew change through Cypriot ports since May 2020 — even during lockdown periods.

Going further in such efforts, Demetriades said the country would be willing, under certain conditions, to organise jabs for vessels from other nations as well.

The island nation is exploring the potential to become a vaccination hub for all visiting seafarers, proactively supporting long-term progress for seafarer welfare.

"This will require collaboration with other nations and organisations to pool spare vaccines, and we are in active conversations to progress the potential of this idea," Demetriades said.