Bangladesh allows seafarers’ movement in red, yellow zones

Port of Chittagong, in the red zone, Bangladesh. Credit: Chittagong Port Authority

The government of Bangladesh has permitted movement of seafarers in COVID-19-linked red and yellow zones as they are playing roles of “key workers” during the pandemic.

To contain the spread of the virus, the government is enforcing a strict lockdown in the red zones, while movement around the yellow zones is declared limited.

On 21 June 2020, the Ministry of Public Administration issued a notification identifying several parts of 10 districts as red zones. Nearly 100 places around Dhaka were also identified as red zones, and lockdown measures there are being enforced gradually to contain movement of people as well as the virus.

A large portion of Chattogram (also called Chittagong) port city and its nine sub-districts were also identified as a red zone, and on 17 June, an area was locked down.

Because seafarers are considered essential for the flow of goods, the Department of Shipping has permitted the normal movement of seafarers in any part of the country.

In a circular released on 16 June, the maritime regulator said shipping services are required to be operational so that delivery of vital goods and essential commodities such as fuel, medical supplies, and food grains, along with the nation’s economic activity and supply chain, are not disrupted.

The notification added that while the flow of goods by sea was important and should not be disrupted, the safety of citizens, including their health, and protecting the environment would be taken care of.

“In view of the same, waivers to travel restrictions for shipping-related personnel is essential, as well as for those who are also playing the role of key workers during this pandemic,” it noted.

The regulator asked seafarers to follow the guidelines and all other instructions issued by the World Health Organization as well as Bangladesh’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Directorate General of Health Services regarding COVID-19 precautions.

It also asked that shipping-related personnel carry a valid identity card or pass when moving about for essential duty purposes.

Commodore Syed Ariful Islam, director general of the shipping department, told SAS that seafarers are working as key workers during the pandemic similar to other front-line fighters, such as health workers and members of law enforcement agencies.

“Unless shipping-related personnel can move unhindered, the supply of key essentials including the food grain and medicines will face obstacles,” said Islam, adding that this was why seafarers were given waivers on travel restriction in the red and yellow zones.