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BPA calls for port workers vaccine priority

[ January 18, 2021   //   ]

The British Ports Association has called for the 115,000 workers in the sector  to be given priority during the rollout of the Coronavirus vaccine to protect vital supply chains.

BPA says that maritime workers have ensured imports of foods, essential products, energy and fuel supplies continue to move into the country throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. It has responded to unprecedented circumstances and operational and logistical challenges, all the while dealing with an increase in staff absences due to Covid-19.

As half of the UK’s food is imported, it is critical that ports can remain open and their workforce remains resilient so that shops, public services and businesses are supplied with what the country needs.

BPA head of corporate services, Sara Walsh, said: “We understand the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and different parts of government are currently considering what sectors or particular roles or workers should be priortised for the Covid-19 vaccine. Understandably there has been a lot of interest from different parts of the economy on this matter and obviously we understand the need to vaccinate health professionals and those who are medically vulnerable.

“However we are talking about unsung heroes who keep the county supplied. From marine pilots, to cutter crew, crane and plant operators, vessel traffic service operators, tug operators, quayside operators, stevedores and linesmen. There are a number of “pinch point” roles within the ports sector that are essential to ensuring trade continues to flow and the wider supply chain remains resilient.

“Whilst the vast majority of ports in the UK have been able to maintain continuous operations throughout the pandemic, there is an increasing concern within the sector about surge of infection rates. As a consequence the number of employees who are having to self-isolate, whether that be because they have tested positive or are a close contact of someone who has increased rapidly in certain parts of the country.

“Following the completion of phase one of the vaccination roll-out, we strongly urge the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to include port workers, and in particular those in key “pinch point” roles to be priortised as a matter of urgency.”

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