From cruise ship passengers to cargo vessel crew, many have found themselves stranded at sea or quarantined in ports since the coronavirus pandemic first took hold. The guidelines issued by the European Commission today support these individuals, providing recommendations on health, repatriation and travel arrangements. They also announce the establishment of a network of designated ports for crew changes.
How many people (crews and passengers) have been stranded on cruise ships because of coronavirus?
All commercial cruises have been suspended until further notice. However, we have been informed by the European Maritime Safety Agency that between 8 and 11 April, 11 cruise ships will approach Europe, carrying around 8 000 people. More EU citizens, passengers and crew, are still onboard ships elsewhere, and are waiting to return home.
What sorts of goods are cargo ships carrying?
Cargo ships carry everything, from bulk raw materials, gas and oil to containers full of electronics and active pharmaceutical ingredients needed to produce medicines. Maritime transport plays an essential role in the international trade of EU goods, and 75% of goods traded by the EU are transported by sea. To keep our economy running in these difficult times, it is of utmost importance to keep ships sailing and ports operational.
What are designated ports for crew changes? Why should Member States agree to create a network of such ports?
The Guidelines recommend that Member States and the Commission lead a coordinated effort to designate several ports in the Union for fast-track crew changes. These specifically ‘designated ports should geographically cover the Union and should be connected to operational airports and rail stations. Dedicated or regular flight and rail operations could ensure the transport connections for in- and outgoing crew, allowing seafarers to be repatriated quickly.
‘Designated ports’ should have nearby accommodation where seafarers can wait for the ship they should board, or for their flight, train or ship home. This accommodation should have adequate facilities to allow them self-isolate for 14 days before embarking and after disembarking if the Member State in question requires this, and if testing is not available.
It is in the Member States’ interests to create a network of such ports, and we ask Member States to come forward with nominations.
How will crew members and passengers travel on to their home countries if hardly any flights/international trains are running?
The guidelines suggest that Member States require ship operators to communicate certain details about a ship’s occupants, including intended destination, before the ship reaches the port. This will give the national authorities more time to contact consulates and embassies in order to support the repatriation for the individuals involved.
Whose responsibility is it to take care of non-EU crew members disembarking within the EU?
Responsibility for repatriating seafarers lies first with the ship-owner; failing action to this effect by the ship-owner, the ship’s flag State is responsible. If the seafarer is in good health, and there are no COVID-19 cases on board his or her ship, the ship-owner is obliged under the Maritime Labour Convention to repatriate the seafarers and to cover the cost of the repatriation. If the seafarer has COVID-19 symptoms and is unable to travel back home, the ship-owner must cover the expenses for medical care, food and accommodation until the seafarer recovers.
Where should cruise ships dock?
For ships flagged in an EU Member State, the flag State should allow passengers and crew to disembark in one of its ports and help to make the necessary arrangements for repatriation and access to medical care as appropriate.
If it is not possible or practical for the flag State to accommodate a ship, it should help the cruise ship operators to make appropriate arrangements with other EU Member States or elsewhere. The arrangements should minimise the time the vessel stays at sea while providing good medical infrastructure and transport connections for repatriations.
If the ship is flying a non-EU flag, Member States should accommodate it for humanitarian reasons, but it is recommended that they ask the cruise ship operator to make appropriate financial and logistical arrangements (e.g. required personal protective equipment, facilities for quarantine, hiring of buses, charter flights) before docking. If such arrangements are not found, Member States should in any case consider disembarking any passengers and crew safely and swiftly, before facilitating their transit home.
Should crews/passengers be automatically quarantined when disembarking?
Quarantine requirements are a matter for every individual EU Member State.
Throughout the course of docking, if anyone on board presents symptoms compatible with COVID-19 (including sudden onset of at least one of the following: cough, fever, or shortness of breath), this should be reported to the competent authority immediately.
Those suspected of having the virus should either disembark and be isolated and treated ashore, or be isolated on board (according to procedures described in the EU HEALTHY GATEWAYS advice) until asymptomatic, unless their condition worsens and requires hospitalisation ashore. Decisions on individual cases will be taken by the port state’s competent authority, based on a risk assessment and the situation within the community (containment or mitigation phase).
All individuals leaving the ship should be asked to complete a Passenger/Crew Locator Form before leaving the ship, and the captain should keep this document on board for at least one month. The competent authority should give approval before any individual disembarks, based on an assessment of that person’s health.
Is it not safer for people to stay on a ship until the pandemic passes, rather than disembark?
In some cases, crew and/or passengers may indeed be better off staying on board the ship, provided that the appropriate sanitary measures are in place. This needs to be assessed by the ship’s master and the port state competent authorities on a case-by-case basis. For cruise ships, for example, it should be assessed if the air used by the air-conditioning system can be taken exclusively from the outside (with less chance of virus spread), or whether it is being re-circulated inside the ship, which could in certain cases lead to the infection of passengers healthy to date.
Do any Member States or ports have robust procedures in place, which other countries and ports could learn from?
In order to ensure the docking of the cruise ships Zaandam and Rotterdam in Florida on 2 April, the cruise operator took responsibility for organising repatriations / medical treatment while the flag State (the Netherlands) assisted diplomatically. An agreement between the cruise line and local and federal US authorities foresaw that all passengers first received health screenings and then healthy passengers were allowed to fly home.
What about fishermen?
The fishing industry employs a considerable number of international crew members, both EU and non-EU citizens; an estimated 8% of crew members are from outside EU/EEA countries. Travel to and from the fishing vessels and border crossings should be facilitated for these essential workers. The guidelines therefore recall the importance of applying the recently adopted Guidelines for border management measures in this sector, to protect health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services. Member States should facilitate the transit of EU and third-country fishermen who are EU residents so that they may return home.
Presidents of Parliament to gather for Athens Summit
Presidents of Parliament from the 47 Council of Europe member states, as well as many neighbouring and observer countries and other partner parliamentary assemblies, will meet on 21 and 22 October 2021 in Athens, on the occasion of a conference organised by the Hellenic Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
The Conference will be opened by the President of the Hellenic Parliament Constantine An. Tassoulas, PACE President Rik Daems, and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić.
Some 60 Presidents and Speakers, together with 300 other delegates, are expected at the biennial summit to discuss three major topical issues:
- Democracies facing the Covid-19 public health crisis: sharing experiences
Key-note speeches by the President of the Romanian Senate Anca Dana Dragu; the Speaker of the Russian Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko; and the President of Austria’s National Council Wolfgang Sobotka.
- ‘#EnvironmentRightNow’: national parliaments and the right to a healthy and sustainable environment
Key-note speeches by the Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia Kakha Kuchava; the Speaker of the Parliament of Finland Anu Vehviläinen, and a member of the Council of Europe Advisory Council on Youth, Spyros Papadatos.
- The common future of all European citizens
Key-note speeches by the President of the Belgian Senate Stephanie D’Hose; the President of the Cypriot House of Representatives, Anita Demetriou; and the President of the Slovenian National Assembly, Igor Zorčič.
Secretaries General of the participating parliaments and assemblies are also due to meet on the margin of the conference.
The first conference was held in 1975. It takes place every two years, hosted alternately in Strasbourg or in the capital of a Council of Europe member state. At the invitation of the Hellenic Parliament, it is held this year in Athens, when the country celebrates the bicentennial of its independence.
Lorenzo Natali Media prize 2021: Winners announced
The European Commission announced the three winners of the 2021 ‘Lorenzo Natali’ Media prize: Pari Saikia, for her work on the plight of the Rohingya, Maria Altimira, for her work on the labour exploitation of migrants and Srishti Jaswal for bringing to light the hunger situation in India. For nearly three decades, the prize has recognised courageous journalism and focused on compelling, compassionate reporting that brings to light stories that matter on the global challenges impacting society.
Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, presented the prizes to the winners at today’s award ceremony: “This award of this year’s Lorenzo Natali Media prize, recognizes three exceptional journalists, whose work exemplifies the courage, integrity and dedication to global equity. As development journalists you help bring about change – whether it is tackling inequalities, protecting universal human rights, or responding to the existential threat of climate change.”
The 2021 prizewinners, selected by a grand jury from among more than 1,100 applications from across the world, are:
Pari Saikia of Vice Media India, for:
“Rohingya Brides Thought They Were Fleeing Violence. Then They Met Their Grooms”
Pari Saikia’s story on the exploitation of Rohingya refugee women exposes the drivers and the methods used in trafficking women in the region.
Maria Altimira writing in Diario Ara, for:
“Abusos en los campos de fresas”
In this piece, Maria Altimira shines a light on the labour and sexual abuse suffered by farm workers, and attempts to hold oversight agencies accountable for abuses happening on their watch.
Best Emerging Journalist prize
Srishti Jaswal, writing in Stories Asia, for:
“The Global Hunger Index Reveals India’s Ignored Hunger Crisis”
Srishti Jaswal’s investigation reveals India’s hidden hunger crisis and the under-reporting of deaths due to starvation.
The winners were chosen by a Grand Jury of experts in the fields of journalism and development:
- Diana Moukalled (Daraj.com)
- Sulemana Braimah (Media Foundation for West Africa)
- Jana Ciglerová (Denik N)
- Zuliana Lainez (International Federation of Journalists)
- Steve Sapienza (Pulitzer Center).
All entries underwent an initial pre-selection phase conducted by four journalism schools: Vesalius College in Brussels, Universidade Católica Portuguesa in Lisbon, Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona and Université Saint Joseph in Beirut.
Established in 1992, the European Commission’s Lorenzo Natali Media Prize is awarded in memory of Lorenzo Natali, a former Commissioner for Development and Cooperation. He was a staunch defender of freedom of expression, democracy, human rights and development.
The prize recognises high-quality, courageous reporting on compelling issues such as climate change, women´s rights, inequality, healthcare, democracy and human rights.
The prize’s three categories in 2021 were:
- Grand prize: for reporting published by a media outlet based in one of the European Union’s partner countries.
- Europe prize: for reporting published by a media outlet based in the European Union.
- Best Emerging Journalist prize: for reporting by journalists under the age of 30, published in a media outlet based in the European Union or in one of its partner countries.
70% of the EU adult population fully vaccinated
Today, the EU has reached a crucial milestone with 70% of the adult population now fully vaccinated. In total, over 256 million adults in the EU have now received a full vaccine course. Seven weeks ago already, the Commission’s delivery target was met, ahead of time: to provide Member States, by the end of July, with enough vaccine doses to fully vaccinate 70% of the adult EU population.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “The full vaccination of 70% of adults in the EU already in August is a great achievement. The EU’s strategy of moving forward together is paying off and putting Europe at the vanguard of the global fight against COVID-19. But the pandemic is not over. We need more. I call on everyone who can to get vaccinated. And we need to help the rest of the world vaccinate, too. Europe will continue to support its partners in this effort, in particular the low and middle income countries.”
Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “I am very pleased that as of today we have reached our goal to vaccinate 70% of EU adults before the end of the summer. This is a collective achievement of the EU and its Member States that shows what is possible when we work together with solidarity and in coordination. Our efforts to further increase vaccinations across the EU will continue unabated. We will continue to support in particular those Member States that are continuing to face challenges. We need to close the immunity gap and the door for new variants and to do so, vaccinations must win the race over variants.”
Global cooperation and solidarity
The rapid, full vaccination of all targeted populations – in Europe and globally – is key to controlling the impact of the pandemic. The EU has been leading the multilateral response. The EU has exported about half of the vaccines produced in Europe to other countries in the world, as much as it has delivered for its citizens. Team Europe has contributed close to €3 billion for the COVAX Facility to help secure at least 1.8 billion doses for 92 low and lower middle-income countries. Currently, over 200 million doses have been delivered by COVAX to 138 countries.
In addition, Team Europe aims to share at least 200 million more doses of vaccines secured under the EU’s advance purchase agreements to low and middle-income countries until the end of 2021, in particular through COVAX, as part of the EU sharing efforts.
Preparing for new variants
Given the threat of new variants, it is important to continue ensuring the availability of sufficient vaccines, including adapted vaccines, also in the coming years. That is why the Commission signed a new contract with BioNTech-Pfizer on 20 May, which foresees the delivery of 1.8 billion doses of vaccines between the end of the year and 2023. For the same purpose, the Commission has also exercised the option of 150 million doses of the second Moderna contract. Member States have the possibility to resell or donate doses to countries in need outside the EU or through the COVAX Facility, contributing to a global and fair access to vaccines across the world. Other contracts may follow. This is the EU’s common insurance policy against any future waves of COVID-19.
A safe and effective vaccine is our best chance to beat coronavirus and return to our normal lives. The European Commission has been working tirelessly to secure doses of potential vaccines that can be shared with all.
The European Commission has secured up to 4.6 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far and negotiations are underway for additional doses. The Commission is also working with industry to step up vaccine manufacturing capacity.
At the same time, the Commission has started work to tackle new variants, aiming to rapidly develop and produce effective vaccines against these variants on a large scale. The HERA Incubator helps in responding to this threat.
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