The Maritime Advocate–Issue 784


1. The Belgian solution
2. Boers helps with vaccinations
3. Tackling sanctions risk
4. Goods under CMR
5. Distress calls analysis
6. Shipping safety
7. Remote survey first
8. Carriers under the spotlight
9. Stormy seas for importers
10. Flawed international law

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1. The Belgian solution

By Michael Grey

We have more than a million of the world’s most essential workers, whose labours have been absolutely essential during this pandemic, but they have the utmost difficulty in getting vaccinated. They are, of course, seafarers, whose itinerant lifestyles mean that they are seldom in one country for any length of time. They are also foreigners, which means that it does not appear to any government other than their own, that their health or vaccination status is anything to do with them. And most of the time, they spend their lives over the horizon, and effectively invisible, except when they are found to be Covid positive and everyone wants them to go away.

For the whole length of the pandemic, the treatment of the world’s seafarers has been shameful. Crews have been forced to remain at work far beyond the end of their contracts, denied shore leave or any relief, while those who might have relieved them have remained at home, mostly unpaid. The arrival of the vaccine “cavalry”, as Boris Johnson called this medical miracle, offered a solution that might have done something to mitigate the grim life of the seafarer. But just as the pandemic itself seemed to bring out in the worst in bureaucratic obstacle building, while everyone wants and needs what seafarers carry aboard their ships, the vaccination of this vital international workforce has proved a problem best passed down the line.

The emergence of new variants of the virus have magnified the apparent problems, while the need for specific vaccines to be approved, not just by those dishing it out, but in the ports or airports which seafarers might pass through, has been a major complication. It has not helped that the majority of the international workforce are residents of countries well down the food chain in terms of resources, and that most work aboard open register ships, which almost certainly don’t stay in port long enough for two jabs to be given.

There have been some bright spots in this catalogue of unfeeling gloom, which has seen the seafaring workforce treated like lepers in many countries, with ships, in some notable and shameful cases, not even permitted to land their dead. Cyprus, which has a sizeable fleet manned almost entirely by non-Cypriots, has offered vaccines to anyone aboard a Cyprus flag ship. Some parts of the US, where there is a range of approved vaccines on hand, have made them readily available to all seafarers, regardless of their nationality.

And since the end of last month, in an excellent case of thinking outside the box, Belgium has commissioned “roving” vaccination teams to provide the one-jab Johnson & Johnson vaccine to all seafarers using their ports. This is an important advance in thinking, with the Royal Belgian Shipowners’ Association acting on a proposal by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for the North Sea, along with the Directorate of Shipping. It is a big deal, if you think of the “throughput” of seafarers aboard ships passing through ports the size of Antwerp and Zeebrugge. And with a single dose vaccine, it is arguable that one problem has been halved, at a stroke.

One must only hope that this example of innovation and leadership, quickens the pulse of other administrations that depend so much upon the labours of seafarers and shows that solutions are perfectly possible, given the will and application of resources. The scheme not only applies to seafarers aboard ships in Belgian ports, but also those who might be joining or leaving ships docked in Belgium.
The Belgian model might also serve to shame some developed and well-resourced countries which depend completely upon shipping for their exports and imports. It has probably taken a certain amount of courage, to embark on a scheme that effectively takes responsibility for something that everyone else tended to put in the “too-hard” basket, and for the benefit of non-nationals. But it is apparent that seafarers have suffered long enough in this pandemic, with large numbers of them turning their back on a career that offers little other than exclusion from society and ill-treatment. Some clever folk in Belgium might have done something that is both practical and humane and goes some way to redress the balance.

Michael Grey is former editor of Lloyd’s List.

2. Boers helps with vaccinations

Crew services specialist Boers has launched seafarer vaccination programmes at German and Belgian ports, as shipping executives warn of onboard Covid-19 outbreaks because mariners are not getting vaccines quickly enough.
Seafarers arriving at ports in Antwerp, Ghent and Zeebrugge can get one-shot Covid-19 jabs through Boers’ scheme, which is being launched to protect key workers in the shipping industry. The vaccination is being carried out by the Belgian, Dutch and German governments and port and marine authorities, where Boers organises the complete process.
The respective governments in those countries secure the vaccines and distribute them to their local port and marine authorities. Boers Crew Services then helps to arrange appointments and organise transport for any seafarers booked in to have the vaccine.
The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine will be available free of charge until further notice to all mariners of any nationality arriving in Belgium for crew changes. There is a fee for the medical services provided by the port authorities.
“Getting as many seafarers as possible vaccinated is absolutely vital to supply chains and global markets,” said Hans Boers, Co-CEO of Boers, the Netherlands-based shipping crew transport services operator for Northern Europe.
“We’ve seen with the crew change crisis the challenges shipping companies face in hiring seafarers for their vessels, creating a shortage of available mariners which in turn has led to rising prices for goods, food and petrol as demand outstrips supply.
“For us, the most important thing is making sure crew members entering Belgian ports have access to free Covid-19 jabs. Protecting seafarers from the virus is paramount – and we have the means to help do that. The more mariners who have the vaccine, the quicker shipping and life in general can return to normal.”
Boers recently began offering free jabs to mariners at German ports in Hamburg and Bremerhaven. The company also provides vaccinations at ports in the Netherlands, albeit for just Dutch flagged or owned vessels but it plans to extend this service to all seafarers.

At Belgian ports, seafarers who want the Covid-19 vaccine must apply at least 48 hours before their ship is berthed. Application forms, which should include the vessel information, expected time of arrival and details of the mariner wanting the vaccination, must be sent to
On receiving the application, the port’s maritime medical centre will either confirm or refuse the request. Vaccinations on vessels are available for five or more crew members, with groups of four or less having to go to the medical centre. Any Covid-19 jab will be recorded in the seafarer’s vaccination booklet.
In Germany, Boers offers around 30 shots on Tuesdays and Thursdays and approximately 40 shots on Saturdays to seafarers at Hamburg’s port. Details for the number of vaccines available in Bremerhaven and on what days are being finalised.
Shipping companies that want vaccines for their seafarers at German ports need to provide Boers with a crew list, vaccination passport, the vessel’s contact details and a patient agreement and information sheet signed by the crew member.

For more details, call +(0)3110 415 7725 or email 

3. Tackling sanctions risk

Legal and professional services firm, Ince, has launched an enhanced specialist sanctions compliance solution through a co-operation agreement with Windward, the predictive intelligence company applying AI to transform global maritime trade.  

By accessing Windward’s  advanced data analysis based on AI and machine learning to provide strategic insights on complex and ambiguous sanctions compliance scenarios, InceMaritime  is offering a  solution that mitigates sanctions risk, demonstrates rigorous due diligence and helps avoid costly penalties. This is supported by Ince’s collaboration with New York based law firm, Seward & Kissel   to enable clients to obtain sanctions legal advice covering the EU, England & Wales and US sanctions applications, together with the new best risk analysis and reporting tools available, all under one roof, the company says.

The global political landscape continues to be an exceedingly complex arena. Requirements to address maritime and sanctions risks are now integral to financial, operational and political processes. This is putting immense pressure on organisations to demonstrate deeper knowledge and due diligence within their sanctions compliance strategies, particularly in light of increased accountability under the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020.
Ince says this new proposition will enable charterers, insurers, owners, investors, brokers, ship operators, financial institutions and defence agencies to benefit from a smarter, faster and forward-looking approach to risk mitigation. For example, Windward combines multiple sources, including a variety of data sets, weather, AIS transmissions, satellite, radio, and more to create a range of insights that are driven by AI and machine learning to develop intelligence on vessels, cargo and owners. It combines a series of risk indicators such as ownership and registration that underpin traditional due diligence processes with behavioural analysis to interpret potentially suspicious activity and anticipate next steps as well as their implications.

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4. Goods under CMR

In a recent brief on goods carried under the CMR Convention, the TT Club says that nomination of a ‘special interest in delivery’ for a carriage under the CMR Convention remains insufficient on its own; it is necessary for the value to be declared in the consignment note – a German interpretation.

Where goods are carried under CMR and it is desired to state a ‘special interest in delivery’, thereby increasing the carrier’s liability for loss or damage above the standard limit of SDR 8.33 per kilo, the language of Articles 24 and 26 of CMR specifically requires that the declared value or fixed amount be stated in the consignment note.  Courts may interpret this strictly, as shown by a recent case before the German Federal Court.