Wednesday, May 12, 2021 | ISSN 0719-241X
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March 01, 2021 Chilean ports leading vaccination process of port workers in Latam region Sanitary authorities have recognized them as ‘keyworkers’ and ‘essential personnel’

The continuity of the supply chain has been proven to be fundamental in times of crisis, and the most important links of that chain are the port workers, crews and seafarers. Recognizing them as ‘essential’ is key so that they may have certain health and sanitary guarantees when it comes to their job, and thus being considered within the priority groups for vaccination against coronavirus is an important sign of the relevance they have in their countries’ international trade systems.

It is important to give visibility to these countries where there is recognition to port workers, and Chile has stood out within Latin America for leading the vaccination process in the region, inoculating essential personnel since December 2020, starting with health front-line workers, a campaign that went on through January 2021. Starting in February the Health Ministry began the massive vaccination process for the entire population, prioritizing the elderly and other essential workers not related to the health front-line, among which are the port workers of the country.

From north to south

Before the first half of the month, 130 workers at San Antonio Terminal Internacional (STI) were the first to receive their dose of Sinovac. In the following days, another 60 people in Ultraport, Arica, were inoculated with the same vaccine. “We are very proud to have been the first port in the north region of the country to begin the vaccination process, which was well-received by our collaborators and workers from Bolivian and Peruvian companies that work within our terminal. During the past year, we have been very worried about preventing the spread of the disease and caring for the health of all those who are part of Arica Port. To achieve this, since the start of the pandemic we have implemented a series of sanitary measures focused on delivering the highest levels of security for our associates and their families. We know that the vaccine is a great step forward, but it is not the eradication of the virus, so we must continue to care for ourselves and others and not let our guards down,” says Gabriel Tumani, general manager Terminal Puerto Arica.

Another 163 people in Puerto Ventanas, part of Sigdo Koppers, received their number 1 dose of the vaccine, while Puerto Valparaíso managed the inoculation of 1,500 employees between the concessionaires TPS, TCVAL and ZEAL. In Huasco, Iquique, 170 workers from Las Lozas and 90 operators from Puerto Chacabuco got shots as well. Meanwhile, in the southern region of the country in Punta Arenas, 100 workers from Empresa Portuaria Austral were vaccinated. The more than 2,200 port workers that have been vaccinated in Chile are part of the 3,300,000 that had their first doses of Sinovac administered to them within February 2021, of a total universe of 15 million citizens to be inoculated during this year. 

International standard, regional leader

Since the start of the pandemic, NGOs such as the International Chamber of Shipping ICS have pushed initiatives to give visibility to port workers, crewmen, and seafarers as essential personnel and prioritize the care for their health through better medical attention, crew repatriation, and access to vaccines. “The ICS [… ] calls for governments to put seafarers and frontline maritime shore workers at the head of the vaccine queue and to designate seafarers as keyworkers, to avoid a repeat of the 2020 ‘crew change crisis’. ICS is demanding that governments, who are once again restricting travel as a reaction to new COVID-19 mutations, recognize the vital role seafarers play in the global supply chain,” reads an official release. The International Maritime Organization IMO does not have regulations or norms that they can demand compliance to, what they do have are recommendations and protocols especially oriented for crew members as a result of the humanitarian repatriation crisis from 2020.

It is in this context that Chile stands out on a regional level and across the world, being an example for the globe on the high level of agreement management with the different pharmaceutical laboratories as they informed their advances on the vaccine, ensuring doses for everyone, along with the Health Ministry’s work to determine the order of priority for people to receive the vaccine once there were enough doses. The vaccination process was divided into two parts, where the first one considers the population most exposed or vulnerable to the disease, such as front-line health workers, essential personnel, people over 75 years of age, and those with chronic health conditions. Under the “Personnel working on essential activities for direct citizens’ attention” are port and shore maritime workers, crews and seafarers. Others in this group include those who work in airports, bus terminals, the State-owned bank BancoEstado, state-owned health insurance Fonasa, private health insurers known as ‘Isapre’, civil registry, non-banking financial institutions called ‘Cajas de Compensación’, preventive medicine commission ‘Compin’, government service network ‘ChileAtiende’, health ministry auditors, and agricultural service (SAG) workers.

Humanitarian campaigns: COVAX

COVAX is the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator pillar focused on vaccine access. The initiative is backed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission, and France in response to the pandemic. Thanks to the joint efforts of the NGOs, the COVAX program ensures that all countries in the world have access to vaccines against COVID, allowing an even distribution worldwide by end-2021. Latin American countries are considered in this initiative, but it is those who have made direct agreements with labs the ones that are leading vaccination of their population, because ‘resting’ on the certainty of the COVAX doses is a much slower process. The initial goal is to have 2 billion doses available by December ’21 which “should be enough to protect high risk and vulnerable people, as well as frontline healthcare workers,” reads the official site.

The controversies

Brazil, Argentina, and Peru have also begun their vaccination processes, but they have made headlines more for their controversies than for their success. Cases of hoarding doses by elite groups, ‘VIP vaccination’, ‘vaccine tourism’ to neighboring countries, and other scandals have stained the efforts of governments to inoculate their population… and in nowhere are the port workers even mentioned as part of priority groups. Other countries that have attracted the attention of the international media are those who do not have enough doses, such as Cuba or Nicaragua, or even none at all as is the case of Uruguay. As late as the last week of February did the Uruguayan government receive the first vaccines. The question remains, what level of priority do port and shore maritime workers have in these countries? Public recognition as keyworkers and essential personnel is what validates them as a fundamental part of the supply chain of their country and, in consequence, the potential for their commercial development.  

By MundoMaritimo

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