Maritime Pilots Malaysia (MPM), the national association representing pilots serving at Malaysian ports, has called for pilots to be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccination, given they are the first person to board any foreign ships which are not pre-inspected by port health.
Pilots were denied priority, despite having submitted an application and list of names to the Covid-19 immunisation task force months before. According to MPM, three have so far tested positive for Covid-19, and more than 12 were quarantined.
Capt. Martin Lim, president and chairman of MPM, said that since the pandemic hit Malaysia, ships are in general not required to anchor outside the port limit for quarantine inspection by the port state. Ships arriving from ports in India, as well as ports identified as having a serious Covid-19 outbreak, will only be quarantined at the wharf once the subject ship is secured and alongside.
MPM claims that pilots are pressured to board these ships at outer anchorage and pilot them into the harbour.
“This unwarranted practice imposed severe healthy safety risk to the maritime pilots and is certainly emotionally distressing,” said Capt. Lim.
He emphasized that protective equipment does not guarantee that the assigned pilots will be safe from infection, which could ultimately jeopardise ship movement into ports and harbours and affect cargo shipping in and out of the country.
“I urge the Malaysia government to take swift action with the highest urgency through special arrangement to vaccinate all maritime pilots who are members of MPM serving at all ports in Malaysia.
“The vaccination will able to protect the maritime pilots and offer a sense of health security and even restore the confidence of ship’s master and crew onboard, ultimately the shipping and maritime industry,” Lim concluded.