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EU PolicyWatch

Database of national-level policy measures

Eurofound's EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the COVID-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for measure EU-2021-4/1753 – measures in European Union

EU sectoral social partners call for the safety of seafarers

bezpieczeństwa marynarzom

Country European Union , applies eu-wide (or beyond)
Time period Open ended, started on 21 January 2021
Context COVID-19
Type Non-binding recommendations or other texts
Category Ensuring business continuity and support for essential services
– Smoothing frictions or reallocation of workers
Author Barbara Surdykowska and Eurofound
Measure added 02 February 2021 (updated 05 February 2021)

Background information

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented crisis in the replacement of seagoing crews. At the same time in the assessment of the EU sectoral social partners: the European Transport Workers' Federation ETF and the European Community Shipowners' Associations ECSA, seafarers are the frontline workers of the maritime industry, which carries 90% of world trade, as they play a key role in supplying nations with essential goods. In 2021, this will increasingly include vaccine doses and personal protective equipment. The ETF and ECSA therefore call on EU authorities and governments to ensure that seafarers are recognized as key workers in all EU Member States.

The European Transport Workers’ Federation is a pan-European trade union organisation which embraces transport trade unions from the European Union, the European Economic Area and Central and Eastern European countries. The ETF represents more than 5 million transport workers from more than 200 transport unions and 41 European countries.

The European Community Shipowners’ Associations is the umbrella organisation of the national shipowners’ associations of the EU, the UK and Norway. European shipowners control around 40% of the world’s shipping fleet. ECSA’s prime task is to represent the overall interests of the European shipping industry with the institutions of the European Union.

Content of measure

ETF and ECSA strongly call on EU Member States and EU Institutions to ensure that seafarers and maritime personnel should, in line with the key worker status, continue to be exempted from restrictions being put in place, like quarantine and pre-arrival testing requirements. This to ensure they can travel to and from EU Member States for the purpose of crew changes, shore leave or repatriation.

Social partners stress that even with priority access to vaccinations, it will take some time before all seafarers will be vaccinated. During this period seafarers and maritime personnel should not be subjected to any requirement to have been vaccinated for entry to or travel within the EU. Social partners stressed also that European flag states have a particularly important role to play in leading by example in facilitating crew changes in their ports and supporting their flagged vessels in efforts to undertake crew changes and repatriations globally.

Use of measure


Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Cross-border commuters
Workers in essential services
Sector specific set of companies
Companies providing essential services
Other businesses
Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
EU level social partners
No special funding required

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Agreed (outcome) incl. social partner initiative Agreed (outcome) incl. social partner initiative
Form Any other form of consultation, institutionalised (as stable working groups or committees) or informal Any other form of consultation, institutionalised (as stable working groups or committees) or informal

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • Social partners jointly
  • Main level of involvement: EU level


This is a bilateral initiative of EU-level sectoral social partners.

Views and reactions

The social partners support their own initiative.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      H - Transportation And Storage H50 Water transport
    • Occupation (ISCO level 2)
      Labourers in mining, construction, manufacturing and transport


  • 21 January 2021: EU Member States must enable crew changes to take place without further delays and prioritise seafarers for vaccination (


Eurofound (2021), EU sectoral social partners call for the safety of seafarers, measure EU-2021-4/1753 (measures in European Union), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin,


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Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.