by NUR HANANI AZMAN / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
MALAYSIA Shipowners’ Association (Masa) has urged the government to instruct Malaysian banks to grant a further six months moratorium to shipping companies.
Its chairman Datuk Abdul Hak Md Amin said shipping companies are struggling for survival amid the recent economic downturn and slowdown in the shipping industry due to Covid-19.
“We believe in this initiative, deferring the loan payments, which will help and provide some respite to local shipowners to ensure the continuity of this important industry, and most importantly, to enable them to keep their employees and the companies to stay afloat,” he said in a statement.
Masa also urged the authorities not to implement a full-scale lockdown of the economy as such intervention would further stifle economic recovery.
It said that it is important for the economic sector to operate as usual as the people could not afford to lose their jobs and livelihoods.
“The maritime industry is considered as an ‘essential service’ for transporting various daily basic resources such as food, medicine, oil and gas by sea, not only within peninsula ports but also between East and West Malaysia.
“A full lockdown will certainly hinder Malaysia’s economic recovery and social sustainability, which the maritime industry has already suffered and yet to recover from the Movement Control Order (MCO) 1.0 in March 2020. Another full lockdown will be disastrous to this fragile industry,” Abdul Hak said.
He said shipping companies in Malaysia have abided by the standard operating procedures (SOPs) set by the government and adopted stricter measures to ensure health and safety of employees, despite the losses that they have faced.
“Instead of a full lockdown, the government should consider tightening the current SOPs such as imposing stricter travel restrictions and social activities alike that would reduce community spread, as there are people who still do not want to understand the reality of this deadly virus.
“With stricter SOPs and no full lockdown, it will allow businesses to continue although at a slower pace and we believe we can weather this heavy storm together,” he said.
Abdul Hak suggests the government should also focus on speeding up the supply and distribution of vaccines to the targeted group and community.
“It will be great if the employers are also allowed to purchase the Covid-19 vaccines directly from the suppliers, thus complementing the government’s programme.
“If private companies are willing to bear the costs of vaccinating to expedite the country’s vaccination process to their employees, that should be welcome,” he said.
It should be viewed as an attempt to contribute to social welfare and to bear some part of the government’s cost burden. This will also speed up the herd immunity that the government is trying to achieve, he said.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Iron and Steel Industry Federation (Misif) urged the government to not impose total lockdown, but allow more stringent SOPs to be implemented.
“While we acknowledge the urgent need to ensure the safety of the workplace and employees’ living quarters and strict adherence to the SOPs, Misif strongly urges the government to evaluate below recommendations by the industry federation on implementing stricter SOPs for the MCO 3.0,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.
Misif said the government must assure the business entity and financial market that there will be no total lockdown, whether nationwide or in states with high infection rates such as Selangor, to keep business confidence.
It also asked the government to allow the economic sectors to operate while instituting stricter SOPs to quickly reduce the infection rates and break the chain of transmission.