SINGAPORE: More than 10,000 frontline maritime workers are expected to be vaccinated by the end of this month, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said on Monday (Jan 18).
These include port workers, harbour pilots and marine surveyors who work on board ships in Singapore's port, the MPA said, adding that these workers carry out essential works such as navigation, refuelling and ship repair.
"Harbourcraft and ocean-going crew who are Singaporeans and long-term residents living in the community are also prioritised for vaccination," said the authority in a media release.
This is in line with the Sea-Air Vaccination Exercise (SAVE), which will also see 20,000 frontline workers in the aviation industry receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung told reporters on Monday morning that 13,000 workers from the two sectors are scheduled to get the first dose of the vaccine this week, with about 37,000 expected to be vaccinated over the next two months.
More than 700 personnel have been vaccinated over the past few days in the run-up to the full roll-out of SAVE, said the MPA, adding it had received about 6,000 registrations for vaccination this week.
"Due to the better protection offered by vaccination, frontline maritime personnel who have completed their full course of vaccination will be subjected to fewer testing requirements," said the MPA.
Those on the seven-day rostered routine testing for COVID-19 will only need to be tested every 14 days, while those who are now tested every two weeks will only need to be tested on a monthly basis.
The MPA said last week that about 27,000 shore-based personnel were tested for COVID-19 between Jan 2 and 8, with all but one testing negative.
SafeEntry@Sea was also rolled out on Friday, requiring all shore-based workers boarding and leaving ships to check in and out using the digital contact-tracing system.
This comes after several cases of COVID-19 in the maritime sector in recent weeks, including a Lloyd's Register marine surveyor, a marine service engineer with Master Systems Marine and a PSA Marine harbour pilot.
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“We rely on our frontline maritime personnel for the transportation of what we need everyday, including food, medical supplies, and consumer goods," said MPA chief executive Quah Ley Hoon.
"We hope that the vaccination can give them peace of mind when they perform their work on board ships," she said, adding workers were strongly encouraged to volunteer for early vaccinations.
The first maritime worker to be vaccinated was Mr Loh Kah Wai, a 55-year-old PSA Marine harbour pilot, who said getting the vaccine would allow him to do his job "with less worry".
Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) president Caroline Yang said the SSA welcomed the mass vaccination for maritime personnel.
"We urge companies to arrange and encourage staff in the identified maritime roles to be vaccinated, not only as protection for themselves but also as an assurance to their loved ones," said Ms Yang.
"SSA will continue to engage the authorities and maritime stakeholders for practical safe management measures so shipping operations in Singapore can continue amid new developments with the global pandemic."