Often overlooked Port of Savannah seafarers given the chance to be vaccinated
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - As vaccinations continue in the Coastal Empire, new efforts are under way to expand their reach to those coming in and out of our community.
Monday a new partnership boarded a ship in the Savannah River for this reason, to turn the corner on COVID-19.
“This vaccine for us is very important and we feel many things because now we feel more strong, more comfortable,” said Captain Idris Karahan, Master of the Yasa Flamingo.
Captain Karahan and his crew of 20 seafarers not only delivered the ship with gasoline to Savannah, but they got something in return. A coveted COVID-19 vaccine that will help them after a difficult year.
“They have not been allowed to go home,” said Captain Lux Lakshman, President of Viksniks Consultants, Inc. “Many of them are stuck on the ship for over a year so it is a big thing that once they get vaccinated now they can make plans to go home.”
Seafarers on the Yasa Flamingo are from Turkey and the Philippines. They say getting a vaccine in their home country isn’t easy, which is why they were honored to lift their sleeves Monday.
“I know my relatives, many relatives, pass away due to COVID situation and we are almost two years and living through so afraid and confused, but now we have hope,” said Captain Karahan.
90% of the ship was vaccinated with Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine while docked Monday morning. It’s thanks to a partnership between Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE) in Georgia, the Rotary Club of Savannah and more. Originally, they wanted to help those in India but realized they could help seafarers who are often overlooked and unsung heroes stopping here in our community for a few hours at a time.
“I said tell me what is it, should we be finding oxygen generators to send over there, should we raise money and Captain Lakshman said there’s a bigger need, one that’s immediate,” said Ted Kleisner, President of the Rotary Club of Savannah.
They saw this partnership as a way to have global impact locally. 4,000 ships come through Savannah annually carrying 75,000 seafarers.
“People sitting at home during the pandemic for the past year have no idea how the goods they ordered on an ecommerce site got there or how they ever fill up their gas tank in the car at a gas station so these seafarers are the ones who make it happen,” said Captain Lux Lakshman. “It is our moral obligation to help them because we are in a position to help and we should help.”
That help didn’t go unnoticed. As they were vaccinated by CORE, crew members took photos and celebrated their monumental moment together grateful.
“We are so happy because now we can say somebody think about us, " said Captain Idris Karahan, Master of the Yasa Flamingo. “Somebody interests about us this is very important because now we don’t feel alone.”
While the ship set course Monday afternoon, they are sailing closer to full vaccination thanks to their time in the Hostess City.
Leaders say they have a goal in the next 100 days to reach 60% of the ships coming into the Port of Savannah.
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