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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 — The Association of Malaysia’s Maritime Professionals (IKMAL) has suggested that Malaysia’s seafarers be given the priority to receive the vaccination in the first phase of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.
In a statement today, IKMAL said seafarers who have been vaccinated would be able to return to serve on board ships and continue to support the critical maritime transport supply chain.
It said the move could also reduce the travel restrictions imposed on seafarers, who were among the high-risk groups, thus avoiding them from being stranded on board ships after their contracts have been completed.
The statement added that the maritime transportation sector played a critical economic role and provided vital logistics support during the Covid-19 pandemic, and almost 90 per cent of the global trade were transported by sea.
“Within this incessant maritime logistics movement, there are 1.6 million seafarers globally who ensure the ships are in continuous operation, transporting a myriad of goods, including fuel, foodstuff and medical items,” it said.
IKMAL said Malaysia’s seafarers were also involved in the ecosystem and it was estimated that 40,000 of them have continued their services despite facing various difficulties.
“Based on the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) data, there are about 400,000 seafarers who are trapped on board their vessels globally and were unable to return to their home countries upon completion of their service contracts due to travel restrictions,” it said.
According to IKMAL, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has also urged that seafarers be given the priority to receive the Covid-19 vaccination as soon as possible, adding that Singapore has announced to prioritise maritime workers for vaccination.
Therefore, IKMAL said it would communicate with the relevant agencies to bring the matter to the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who is the minister coordinating the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.
On Februayr 4, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the government would roll out the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme at the end of this month, and targeted 80 per cent of the country’s population, or approximately 26.5 people, to receive the vaccine free of charge in three phases.
The first phase from February to April will involve some 500,000 medical and non-medical frontliners, while the second phase from April to August is for the high-risk groups, namely the elderly aged 60 and above and vulnerable groups with morbidity problems such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure including persons with disabilities.
The third phase involving adults aged 18 and above will be carried out from May until February next year. — Bernama