Seafarers of any nationality can get vaccinated against Covid-19 at the Port of Hamburg Duckdalben International Seamen's Club.

The jabs will start today after ships sound their horns in recognition of the International Maritime Organization’s Day of the Seafarer.

“We mustn’t allow the men and women on board, who have kept our country supplied through all the months of the pandemic, to now be left vulnerable while performing a service that is so important to all of us,” said German Shipowners’ Association (VDR) chief executive Ralf Nagel.

He said vaccinations will help facilitate world trade.

“We are seeing delivery delays that may persist until Christmas, as Covid-19 continues to impact global supply chains. Vaccinating seafarers will help to mitigate these risks,” he added.

The VDR and the German Seamen's Mission are now calling for more German ports to start to offer seafarer vaccinations. VDR estimated that out of 1.7m seafarers around 900,000 come from countries where vaccinations are not widely available.

“The most powerful expression of our gratitude would be for seafarers to be able to travel without restrictions again, to have regular shore leave and, of course, to have access to vaccinations as soon as possible,” said Christoph Ernst, secretary general of the German Seamen’s Mission.

Seafarer associations have been arguing that all signatories to the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) have a legal obligation to vaccinate non-national seafarers. The duty of care to foreign seafarers under MLC was recently confirmed at the International Labour Organization.

The Port of Hamburg’s move will raise hopes that other European countries may follow. Belgium and the Netherlands are already offering vaccinations to all crew working on national flag vessels.

India also has a vaccination programme for seafarers and their families in place.

However, the biggest source of vaccinations for seafarers has been the US where 70 ports are now offering vaccinations to seafarers of any nationality.

The number of seafarers unable to carry out crew changes because of travel restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus is estimated to be around 200,000.