Exposure of port pilots to COVID requires priority for vaccinations
Access to COVID-19 vaccines has been a widely debated issue in the shipping industry. The latest group to call for priority for its members is Maritime Pilots Malaysia, which represents the country’s pilots who serve the port and offshore operations.
The association said it was “disappointed and deeply worried” that maritime pilots were not given priority for COVID-19 vaccinations by the government. They argue that the pilots were denied priority, although a request and lists of names had been submitted months earlier to the country’s vaccination task force. As Malaysia has recently seen an increase in the number of cases, which has prompted the government to renew restrictions, the group points out that pilots continue to be at a higher level of risk when piloting foreign vessels in and out. ports in Malaysia.
Captain Martin Lim, President and Chairman of Maritime Pilots Malaysia, speaking on the need for pilots to have access to vaccinations, said: “This is indeed very critical and urgent as we continue to deal with more. in addition to challenges each passing day to meet crewed ships. members infected with COVID-19 on board. ”
Pilots must wear PPE but not fully protected (MPM)
MPM points out that maritime pilots are the first person to board a foreign vessel when it arrives at a port, as ships are generally not required to anchor outside the port for inspection or quarantine, even so ships can arrive from India and other countries that have seen sharp increases and further variations in the virus. Captain Lim points out that ships are only quarantined after pilots have guided them into the port or brought them to quarantine.
“This unwarranted practice has imposed serious health and safety risks for marine pilots and is certainly emotionally taxing,” says Lim. He stressed that the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is required by port authorities, but that does not guarantee that pilots will be safe from exposure to infection. He also said that some new strains of COVID-19 cannot be detected with widely used means such as exchange tests or body temperature.
“I urge the Malaysian government to take swift action with the utmost urgency through a special arrangement to vaccinate all maritime pilots serving in all ports in Malaysia,” Lim said. “As maritime pilots are the first to board foreign ships, vaccination will protect them and give them a feeling of health security. If a serious infection involving maritime pilots in any port in the country occurs, the movement of ships in the ports and port can be seriously compromised and possibly affect the shipment of cargoes in and out. from the country. “
The MPM said three pilots tested positive for COVID-19, but all have fully recovered from the virus. They also reported that more than a dozen other pilots had been quarantined for up to 14 days due to close contact with crew members who were later declared “person under investigation.” “.
Maritime organizations around the world have called for priorities for vaccines for seafarers to ensure the movement of goods. In the spring, vaccines became a problem at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles when unions blamed some delays and congestion at the ports on dockers and cargo handlers falling ill or quarantined. Dockworkers in Argentina have staged strikes over the past two weeks to demand that they be given priority for vaccinations.