Sunday, August 17, 2014

Container Shipping Group Aid Myanmar with Free Transport for Medical Cargo

Underlying Problems for Country Remain Off the Menu for Discussion However as Whispers of Ethnic Cleansing Persist
Shipping News Feature

MYANMAR – JAPAN – US – Shipping group Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), has supported the Japanese non-profit organisation working for health and medical development, Peoples' HOPE Japan's (PH-Japan) Myanmar healthcare programme, to provide free transportation of PH-Japan's container filled with 2000 units of digital thermometers and electronic blood pressure manometers to hospitals and medical facilities in the country. This is the first instance of MOL support in the form of free transport of goods to Myanmar.

Despite fast-growing economy in Myanmar, it remains one of the least affluent countries in East Asia. According to the World Health Organization, Myanmar continues to struggle with the lack of access to healthcare and as a result, the country suffers from much higher morbidity and mortality compared to its neighbouring countries in the Asia Pacific region. What many people in the West fail to realise is the security situation which exists within the country with many of the indigenous ethnic groups actively persecuted by the military government.

The latest, but dated, census showed just 60% of the population as Burman and the lack of coordination amongst the many other groups in a country where over a hundred languages are spoken has made them an easy target for a programme which many have simply labelled genocide. These groups even view darling of the West, Aung Sung Suu Kyi, as just another Burman who, even if she achieved the presidency, would not be allowed control of the military under the Myanmar constitution leaving it to follow a rarely mentioned policy of ethnic cleansing.

All this aside, any aid is gratefully received, even if it will only reach the main urban population, and with the help of MOL the medical instruments were shipped from Yokohama port on June 21 and arrived at the Port of Yangon, Myanmar, on July 17. On August 11, a ceremony was held marking the arrival of medical equipment. Joe Kam, Country Director of MOL Myanmar, said:

"MOL's presence in Myanmar dates back to more than a hundred years ago as we grew our service network in our early days of operations. We are proud to support PH-Japan's healthcare initiative and assist Myanmar our long-term partner to enhance healthcare access. It is also a testimony to MOL's enduring commitment to facilitating further development in growing country where we operate.

MOL set ‘For the UN Millennium Development Goals’ as one of its social contribution activity philosophies. Their targets are: reduce infant mortality and improve maternity health, and halt and begin to reverse by of HIV/aids, malaria, and other diseases by 2015. MOL says that it takes a proactive stance in social contribution activities as only an ocean shipping company with global networks can do.

In other company news the State of California has always been noted as leading the way when it comes to greener transport and programmes implemented by two of the region’s major ports are proving their worth, with many shipping lines consciously trying to improve their environmental credentials. All vessels, from container ships to bulk freight, cruise liners and car carriers, which knowingly slow when closing on the coast are rated by the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and receive plaudits for doing so.

Now MOL has earned recognition from the two ports for its efforts to ensure compliance with standards that call for vessels to slow down within 40 nautical miles (nm) of the shore. The Port of Long Beach introduced the Green Flag Programme and Port of Los Angeles the Vessel Speed Reduction Programme. These urge vessel operators to slow down to 12 knots or less within a certain range of the ports to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx), and sulfur oxide (SOx) in coastal areas to conserve coastal environment, and offer annual rewards to vessel operators that achieve extraordinary compliance percentages.

Every year, a total of 250 MOL Group-operated vessels including containerships calling at MOL’s TRAPAC container terminal, as well as car carriers, tankers, and bulkers, navigate through the area covered by the speed standards. The ports have clearly appreciated the company’s efforts to comply with the programmes and its contribution to a cleaner coastal environment.

Photo: Kachin homes burnt by troops, Nam Sang Yang. (Courtesy of Free Burma Rangers)