NY and NJ missing boat on Mariner-Union vaccinations
The head of a U.S. seafarers’ union said leaders in New York and New Jersey states should recognize the essential role of U.S. seafarers by prioritizing them for COVID-19 vaccination.
The Washington Post, in a recent Sunday Business article titled Essential, Invisible, describes how “states have been hit or miss on vaccines” for merchant seamen and that for most people who go to sea, the process can be described as ” you’re on your own. “New York and New Jersey are two of the states where seafarers have not been a priority, and few seafarers in those states have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the captain said. Don Marcus, President of the International Organization of Masters, Journeymen and Pilots (MM&P), the union that represents masters and deck officers on ships flying the United States flag.
Sailors are “a special case that requires special attention,” Marcus wrote in a recent letter to Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York. “We don’t have ventilators or doctors on the container ships and foreign governments often don’t let our crews go to hospitals.”
This is not the first time that maritime union leaders have contacted the governor of New York, who is also president of the National Governors Association (NGA). Last January, Marcus, joined by leaders from seven other maritime unions, appealed for Cuomo’s help as head of the NGA, to get the vaccine to “the approximately 14,000 U.S. citizen merchant seamen who are in charge. to keep the United States’ economic and military supply lines open on the high seas. â
The organizations that signed the letter also listed union hiring halls and other facilities near major ports that could be used as clinics to administer the vaccine, including a site in Jersey City, NJ.
Help, still very much needed, has not arrived.
The risks to mariners are not theoretical, says Captain Thomas Larkin, vice president of Atlantic ports for the MM&P. Larkin works in Newark, NJ
âThere have been a number of COVID outbreaks on US ships,â Larkin says. “The virus can spread quickly on our ships we work on and live nearby with crews of several age groups.”
In addition to the high risks they bear, sailors face many more complications in scheduling vaccination appointments than most Americans, Larkin says. âOur members travel to and from their work on board ships. They do not have the ability to confidently schedule appointments for multiple vaccinations. “
While U.S. ships are essential for servicing U.S. military bases overseas and supplying entire states such as Alaska and Hawaii, the federal government has delegated responsibility for vaccinating the merchant navy to the states and their governors.
âThe only way for us to get enough gunshots from seafarers is to bring in the governors,â says Marcus. âWe know that we are often out of sight. We don’t want to be crazy. “
âWe send governors an SOS,â says Marcus.