Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the shipping industry and seafarers themselves over the past few years. IMO is working tirelessly at all levels to find solutions.

Key worker designation

Travel restrictions imposed by governments around the world and restricted access to vaccines have created significant hurdles to crew changes and repatriation of seafarers. This has humanitarian and safety implications. IMO has urged its Member States to designate seafarers as key workers, so they can travel between the ships that constitute their workplace, and their countries of residence.

For the latest list, please click Circular Letter No.4204/Add.35/Rev.12 - Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Designation of seafarers as key workers'.

Seafarer vaccination

The World Health Organization (WHO) has named seafarers as one of the groups of transportation workers to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination in instances of limited supplies. The updated guidance (Juy 2021) for Stage II of its vaccine roadmap from the WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) states: "Seafarers and air crews who work on vessels that carry goods and no passengers, with special attention to seafarers who are stranded at sea and prevented from crossing international borders for crew change due to travel restrictions." Download WHO SAGE Roadmap for prioritizing COVID-19 vaccines here.

Information on availability of vaccines for seafarers is provided by ICMA here: and by NAMMA here:

You can also read information about Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations here:

IMO help for seafarers

IMO has established a Seafarer Crisis Action Team (SCAT) to help seafarers out of a variety of critical situations. If you or a loved one would like IMO assistance from the SCAT team, please email

Contact information for the National focal points on crew change and repatriation of seafarers can be found via the GISIS module on crew change and repatriation of seafarers.  (free to access, registration required).IMO SCAT email banner.png

Resolutions to support seafarers

The following resolutions have been adopted to encourage actions to support seafarers during the COVID-19 crisis:

Advice for IMO Member States, seafarers and shipping 

IMO issued a number of circular letters (CL series 4204) over the course of the pandemic to provide guidance for Member States, seafareres, shipping companies and other stakeholders. Read them here

Communications received from Member States and Associate Members

IMO has received, and circulated,  communications from Member States and Associate Members Communications

Click here to view full list of communications received by country and subject.

Download PDF - Table overview: List of Circular Letters with COVID-19 related notifications received from Member States (updated weekly).

Press releases

IMO has published a number of press briefings - some of which touch upon on key issues related to the pandemic, including crew changes, repatriation of seafarers and meetings postponement: click here to visit our press briefings page. 

IMO Meetings / IMO Headquarters updates

Click for the meetings schedule.

Circular Letter No.4213/Add.7 (6 June 2022) - Resumption of in-person meetings

Update on the status of the International Maritime Organization Headquarters building and telecommuting arrangements due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Circular Letter No.4220 (latest version) - Access to the IMO Headquarters building, latest requirements.

Read more - Information and resources from external sources

The following links also provide advice and information to seafarers and shipping (this list is not intended to a be complete reflection of all available information) - IMO is not responsible for the information in these websites:

World Health Organization 

Please note: The WHO Director-General determines that COVID-19 is now an established and ongoing health issue which no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). Read more: Statement on the fifteenth meeting of the IHR (2005) Emergency Committee on the COVID-19 pandemic (5 May 2023).

Click here for Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations information: 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued comprehensive guidance on topics such as infection prevention and control; critical preparedness, readiness and response, and ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. 

The WHO has also published specific guidance related to and relevant to travel and shipping in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes: