Myanmar suspends crew training to contain pandemic

Volunteers take the temperature of residents by a barrier blocking access to minor roads with a sign urging residents to stay at home in Yangon. Credit: SAI AUNG MAIN/AFP via Getty Images

Myanmar has suspended seafarers training across the country for an indefinite period to contain further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Directorate of Maritime Affairs has revoked the licence of all the marine training institutes until further notice.

“Therefore, in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease, the Maritime and Marine Engineering Training Institutes accredited by the Directorate of Maritime Transport have been suspended from 1 September 2020,” said a notification published by the Directorate of Maritime Affairs on 9 September.

“The timing of the reopening of the courses will be announced by the Directorate of Maritime Affairs,” said Ko Ko Naing, director-general of the Directorate of Maritime Affairs.

Meanwhile, Myanmar has extended the validity of seafarers’ documents for another year, which had expired between March and September 2020, as the crew are failing to sign-off during the pandemic. Earlier on 13 May, the validity was auto-renewed for six months.

The notification stated that due to lockdown in many countries, a lot of seafarers are stranded on board as international airlines are suspended.

Myanmar seafarers will have to continue to work and have their contracts renewed for a further tenure as they are unable to sign-off from ships.

Due to the inability of crew changes to be carried out in certain ports, the validity of seafarers’ documents is expiring and crew members will face difficulties in performing duties without valid documents.

“Therefore, for the Myanmar seafarers currently on duty on Myanmar ships and foreign-flagged ships, the temporary validity of Seafarer’s Identification and Record Book, which had expired between March 2020 and September 2020, will be extended by one year,” said the notification.

As of August 2020, Myanmar has 14,353 active marine officers and 51,475 ratings, according to the statistics of the department of marine administration.

By enforcing strict measures, Myanmar, despite being very close to China where the disease first broke out, could contain the spread of COVID-19. The Myanmar government had enforced border closures and domestic movement control measures in early April 2020.

The Myanmar government also suspended all international flights, banned issuing of all types of visas, and imposed a mandatory three-week quarantine for Myanmar nationals returning home through other means.

Data from the World Health Organization, published on 14 September, showed some 3,015 people tested positive, of which 699 recovered and 24 died. On the other hand, 29.206 million people globally were detected positive of which so far 21.041 million could recover and 928,830 died.