The Malta Maritime Forum (MMF) has called for the prioritisation of frontline workers in the maritime industry, adding that it “is necessary not merely to safeguard the health and safety of these workers but also to ensure that certain essential services suffer no interruption whatsoever”.
In a strongly worded statement, the MMF stressed that while the world awaits the successful roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine, it firmly believes “it is in Malta’s strategic and economic interest for the local vaccination programme to give due priority to frontliners who work and serve in the various facets of the maritime industry”.
These include port and terminal workers, mooring-men, pilots, dockers, cargo hauliers and crew members on tugboats, ferries, bunker barges, feeder vessels and the like.
“The work of these people places them at risk due to their inevitable direct contact with counterparts in the same industry,” the MMF said.
The MMF remarked that it is fully appreciative of the challenges – both on a planning and logistical level – which the vaccination roll-out in itself brings along with as well as the difficult choices and prioritisation decisions for authorities.
With this in mind, it argued that:
“By ensuring relevant workers receive their vaccination as soon as is practically possible, the authorities will be ensuring the continued provision of essential goods like food and medical supplies and that our ports could continue to handle all emergency and other essential services required during times of crisis and hopefully soon after, in periods of relative normality.
Indeed, the maritime industry is a chain of inter-related activities and “Malta may suffer shortages of food, medicine and other essential items if the chain is broken as a result of a crisis in a single activity link.
“Of course, as in any other specialised industry, human resources are scarce and any outbreak of COVID amongst crew with the need to quarantine, could easily jeopardise the operation of that particular activity which would inevitably over-flow to other connected activities.”
Moreover, “in light of the importance of the maritime industry to Malta’s economy and the level of international business activity resulting from Malta’s contribution to the transport of people and goods at a regional level”, the MMF deems it wise for the country to hedge against any unnecessary risk of further economic hardship and loss of jobs in the country.
For this reason, it believes “the maritime industry should not be overlooked and taken for granted yet again at this juncture.”
In April, it called out “inaction” by Government following a crisis meeting saying the latter had ignored serious issues raised after the sector was left out of the COVID wage supplement.
“Prioritisation in the vaccination programme is further justified in recognition of the resilience of the Maltese maritime industry as well as the determination and hard work of the players and employees involved to ensure that despite the huge risks involved, the Maltese people continue to be served with the necessary everyday commodities through a seamless operation of the ports, shipping and ancillary logistics sectors.”
In a recent statement, the General Workers Union called for bank staff to also be prioritised, highlighting the essential service such workers carry out for the country.
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First Group (to be vaccinated in January)
The timing of the roll out will depend on the speed of production of the vaccine.
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