The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is spreading rapidly throughout the globe causing concern for almost every industry—including international shipping by sea. With over 80-thousand cases and rising around the world, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is offering guidance to port authorities, ship-masters, and shipping companies. The IMO states that there have been no recommended restrictions to travel or trade. However, some countries have implemented their own restrictions– including refusal of entry or delayed port clearance. The IMO warns that the measures could severely impact maritime traffic—specifically ships, cargo, and crew members.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is diligently working with the IMO to ensure that preventative health measures are put in place, without jeopardizing the safety of seafarers or causing severe interruption to ships, crews, and cargo.
A joint statement released by Director-General of the WHO, Tedros Adhnom Ghebreyesus, and Secretary General of the IMO, Kitack Lim, reads in part, “Flag State Authorities, port State Authorities and control regimes, companies and ship masters should cooperate, in the current context of the outbreak, to ensure that where appropriate, passengers can be embarked and disembarked, cargo operations can occur, ships can enter and depart shipyards for repair and survey, stores and supplies can be loaded, and crews can be exchanged.”
Additionally, under the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Maritime regulations, port States are required to provide prompt medical care to crews working on ships in their respective territories. They are also required to give onshore medical access to those who need it.
The International Maritime Health Association (IMHA) has released the following recommendations to protect yourself from the virus.
How to protect yourself from getting infected
• Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
• When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands
• Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough
• If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider
• When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals
• The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
Specific advice to shipping crews and companies
• Do not restrict embarkation /disembarkation of seafarers in non-affected ports
• Do not restrict necessary ship visits by port agents, chaplains, service personnel and others.
• Do not visit Food Markets in China. Avoid provision of fish and poultry in China.
• Do not consume raw eggs, milk, meat.
• For galley: Observe strict food hygiene to avoid cross contamination
• Store facial protection for all crew (5 pieces /per person)
• Provide influenza vaccination, alcohol-based hand rub and facial protection to ship inspector and other company employees who travel to China.
• If a person on board falls sick AND has been travelling to affected areas 2-12 days before embarkation, the person must stay in his cabin. Consult a Medical Doctor in the next port.
• If a sick person is on board of the ship, fill the Maritime declaration of health and notify port authority
Teams from the WHO, IMO, and ILO will continue to work closely—and provide additional guidance as they receive more information.