Cyprus has come up with a plan it believes could be developed to speed the vaccination of seafarers against Covid-19 and to ease the crew-change crisis.

Vassilios Demetriades, the country's deputy minister for shipping, has written to the International Maritime Organization and the European Union proposing a dual approach to the problem during the pandemic.

The ministry called the plan a "practical, feasible and collective solution" to the question of how to effectively inoculate crews.

The situation is complicated by the international nature of shipping and crews, as well as two jabs being needed for the highest level of protection.

Cyprus is suggesting the programme be split into shortsea and deepsea strands.

For the shorter journeys, the ministry said national regimes "remain workable and regional cooperation easier to achieve".

For long international operations, it said ships should be designated as "isolated" Covid-19 zones — effectively their own "bubbles'.

"The focus should therefore be on seafarers ashore," the ministry said. "Cyprus suggests a coordinated global approach to ensure adequate numbers of approved or authorised vaccines, acceptable to all governments, are available to seafarers for inoculation in their country of residence before they travel to join their respective ships."

Boost to crew changes

Demetriades said crew changes remain difficult despite international efforts.

He believes a jabs plan would help massively with this.

"Cyprus is determined to work constructively towards the deployment of a global seafarer vaccination programme in the most efficient way and is willing to be involved in discussions to determine a coordinated approach," Demetriades said.

Cyprus claims it was one of the first countries to recognise seafarers as key workers and implemented a formal crew-change process.

This has resulted in more than 10,000 crew members being repatriated or able to return to work since May 2020.