America’s Mariners Are Essential Workers. It’s Time to Get Them Vaccinated
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought renewed appreciation for a strong, stable and resilient national logistics system. America’s mariners, who have safely ensured essential cargo continue to reach American’s doorsteps amid the current crisis, are the cornerstone of that system.
Though the vaccine distribution is ongoing, and Biden’s recent announcement to begin vaccinating most adult Americans beginning May 1 is a positive step forward, there’s still much progress to be made in order to return to a safer, normal America. For our country to remain on our projected timeline, we must prioritize vaccinating our most essential workers first — mariners.
Currently, America’s mariners are categorized under phase “1C” of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine — lumped into the same category with software publishers, lawyers and architects. The maritime industry is an often-overlooked industry, yet it is an industry made up of a fundamental group of Americans who, over the last year, have continuously put their own lives and the lives of their families at risk in order to keep America’s economy running.
For the last year, marine transportation professionals have worked at all hours of the day, transporting critical items to homes across the country and into the U.S. market. Such essential items include toilet paper, fresh produce, petroleum, medicine, medical equipment, and so much more. If the maritime industry were to suddenly see a lapse in shipments due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases, Americans would likely be without access to daily essential items.
To complicate matters, the majority of our nation’s mariners reside in inland states, regularly traveling via airplane to their workplace destination, including states like California, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii, on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.
Once they do arrive onsite, mariners work in close proximity together on vessels for extended periods of time, often up to six weeks at once. This simple fact of life for mariners has only increased their chances of catching and spreading COVID-19. As we’ve seen with commercial cruises last year, breakouts on cruise ships are common and dangerous, and preventing more breakouts for mariners could save countless lives.
Demonstrating our strong commitment as an American company to keeping the nation moving even in the midst of a pandemic, Centerline chartered air service to ensure our mariners could continue to report for duty even after commercial air service ceased in this remote part of the nation. Because our crew members come from as far away as Alabama, Idaho, and Las Vegas, we take seriously our role to ensure our essential workers can continue to work each day in service to their fellow citizens.
With so much of global commerce and travel disrupted by the pandemic, the need for a thriving and fully functioning domestic maritime industry has perhaps never been more important. That’s why I am calling on state and local governments to prioritize America’s mariners first. Our government leaders can do so by expediting eligibility for mariners to receive the vaccine in their home states. This small step will help to significantly reduce spread of the virus and allow our essential workers to continue providing for our country.
Each day, mariners fulfill their strong commitment in ensuring that our nation’s logistics system functions smoothly. They act as the bridge in allowing people to continue accessing the products they need for survival. As the vaccine spreads with new strains and variants, keeping transportation vehicles moving with healthy crews and workers is of utmost priority. Now is the time for our government leaders to show their support by putting our mariners’ health first.
Matt Godden is the President and CEO of Centerline Logistics, a leading provider of marine transportation services in the United States, with operations along the West Coast (including Alaska), New York Harbor and the Gulf Coast.
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