Waterway becomes main focus to avoid shortage of goods amid Covid-19

15 September 2020

Not only roads but also waterways are being locally used to avoid the shortage of goods amid Covid-19. After the Covid-19 has come to Myanmar, Yangon became the worst-affected region. But later, Rakhine State became the most suffered region according to the statistics on 30 August. Then, the resurgence occurred in most of the areas including Yangon, other divisions and states. So, the officials from the respective ministries and associations were trying to avoid the shortage of goods amid Covid-19.

It was learnt that State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi helped with the smooth and secure flow of commodities for ensuring that the public should not fear for shortage of commodity as the restrictions on entry of states and regions including Rakhine, Magway, Bago and Ayeyawady were imposed because the virus can rapidly spread.

The plans for collecting rations for the people have been made in advance and the five categories of dry rations have been delivered to the people since the previous Thingyan. The Department of Consumers Affairs Department under the Ministry of Commerce delivered 250 tons of rice and 250 tonnes of edible oil to the people residing in Rakhine State by means of waterway.

U Ye Htut Naing, Director, Department of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Commerce, said, “Our department’s first priority is distributing foods for people to prevent from food shortage when Covid-19 occurs. It is known to all that when Covid-19 resurgence happened in Rakhine State, the authorities instructed us to distribute 250 tonnes of edible oil and 250 tonnes of rice to Rakine. As soon as we were instructed to send those, we shipped it to Rakhine as Myanmar Maritime Affairs department arranged the ship. And our ministry is ready to give a hand as needed .There are also plans to provide foods if people are in need with the instruction of authorities. As we bought those with the state budget, we gave those to people free of charge. There is no problem due to cooperation with other departments despite weather conditions. We couldn’t load rice because it rained so hard at that time and we only loaded the edible oil.  Despite rains, we had to load edible oil till the rain stopped, we loaded rice. The problem is rice and it needs to be getting wet by its nature. The workers loaded the rice bags and edible oil containers regardless of the rain or sun.”

Yangon Region which is the main driver of Myanmar's economy is now  trying to maintain uninterrupted flow of goods to other states and regions and coastal vessels carrying goods to Rakhine State have been permitted to berth in the middle of the Yangon River since 2 September to prevent the spread of COVID-19.The virus is being tested at the port of Bargayar in Kyimyindine Township in collaboration with the Regional Public Health Department in accordance with the rules and regulations. Only when they show no positive for the virus, they are allowed berthing and loading and unloading at the jetty.

U Yan Aung, Head of Office of Myanmar Coastal Freight Forwarders Association, said, “We cannot give permissions well. When a ship arrives at the port, we have to inform to the general administrator and COVID committee. For example, the ship is not allowed to land after informing in Bargayar. But they allow to berthing temporarily when the COVID committee comes to check. The sailors are not allowed to set the land. After checking, the ship has to set the anchors in the middle of the water. If the result comes out and a person is infected, they take that person and the rest crews and the ship are allowed to berth and to load and unloading goods. However, before loading and unloading the freights, the sailors have to open the hatches and they have to go to the back room and are not allowed to go out to avoid contacts with the stevedores. When the stevedores have done their jobs, the committee sanitizes the whole ship. Then the sailors are allowed to come out. The sailors onboard are not allowed to set the land neither in Yangon nor in Sittway like they used to do but not now. There are a bit of problems that some sailors who do not understand the rules landed and went back home. Then, the police came after them and they got arrested. That happened only once. We told about this to the owners and the representatives.”

During this month, the ships preparing to depart to Sittway, Rakhine namely Shwe Nagar, Htarwara Myittar, Shwe Thraphu, Ye Htun Aung, Aung Yadanar(2), Shwe Siphyo and Tawwin Yadanar, are waiting for the permissions by doing medical examinations according to the health guidelines.

Dave, Zwe Mahn, Min Tun (Oakkyin) and Naung Lay