Guidance for Ship Operators to ensure Seafarers health

Issued by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and launched at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the guidance document aims to protect the health of seafarers and limit the spread of the virus.

by Mohammad Danil Arifin

Abstract

COVID-19, more commonly known as the coronavirus, has developed into a pandemic. In order for maritime shipping to continue its operations, shipping companies should undertake measures to protect their members of crew and passengers. In the new guidance document “Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Guidance for Ship Operators for the Protection of the Health of Seafarers”, the International Chamber of Shipping ICS explains the right protection measures for the novel coronavirus and how to react if a case of illness or a suspect case occurs on board. The purpose is to help shipping companies follow advice provided by United Nations agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), as well as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). In the guidance document, it is explained how seafarers should generally protect themselves preventatively, especially with hygienic preventative measures such as regular hand washing and the right conduct when coughing and sneezing (i.e. with a tissue or in the crook of the arm). ICS published posters that can be put up by ship operators on board their ships for information purposes. They are free for download on the ICS website and can be found in Annex A of the Guidance. The crew should be informed about how to deal with suspect and confirmed cases. A ship-specific outbreak management plan should be developed for concrete guidance of the crew.

Introduction

COVID-19 – a virus which can lead to respiratory disease and pneumonia – was first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. More than 90,000 cases have been reported at the time of going to print, including several thousand deaths. While most of these have been concentrated in China, the virus now appears to be spreading globally. No vaccine is currently available, and the focus of health authorities worldwide has been containment of the virus through preventative measures to limit and slow down widespread transmission.


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The WHO has declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern under the WHO International Health Regulations (IHR). This severe public health challenge requires close co-operation between governments and shipping companies engaged in maritime trade, in order to protect the health of seafarers (and passengers) as well as the general public. On 5 March 2020, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) issued this brand new guidance for the global shipping industry to help combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID19). The document contains advice on managing port entry restrictions and offers practical protective measures against COVID-19 for seafarers, including an Outbreak Management Plan.

Information around important topics is provided, including port entry restrictions, preboarding screening, education and what to do in suspected cases of infection. There is also straightforward advice on hygiene measures for seafarers on ships, managing high risk exposure, case handling, isolation and cleaning, disinfection and waste management. The guidance also comes with posters which can be printed out and placed on board ships, as well as a Sample PreBoarding Passenger Locator Form and a WHO COVID-19 Support and Logistics Supplies List.

The Guidance identifies three groups in relation to containing the outbreak potential: confirmed cases, suspect cases and people who have been in close contact to confirmed or suspect cases. Any suspect case has to be reported by the master to the next port of call. The virus has to be verified by a laboratory. The subsequent measures are given in the Guidance.

Discussion

This guidance has been designed to support all types of ships which operate in international waters to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. Issued by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and launched at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the guidance document aims to protect the health of seafarers and limit the spread of the virus.

The position taken echoes that of the World Health Organization (WHO) and many national governments, stressing the importance of hand and respiratory hygiene. The document advises:  

frequent hand washing by crew (and passengers) using soap and hot water or alcoholbased (at least 65–70%) hand rub for 20 seconds

·  avoidance of touching the face including mouth, nose and eyes with unwashed hands

· (in case hands have touched surfaces contaminated with the virus)  seafarers (and passengers) should be encouraged to cover their nose and mouth with

· a disposable tissue when sneezing, coughing, wiping and blowing the nose then dispose of the used tissue immediately  If a tissue is not available, crew should cover their nose and mouth and cough or sneeze· into a flexed elbow  all used tissues should be disposed of promptly into a waste bin

·  seafarers should aim to keep at least one metre (3 feet) distance from other people,

· particularly those that cough or sneeze or may have a fever. If they are too close, other crew members can potentially breathe in the virus  meat, milk or animal products should always be handled with care, to avoid crosscontamination with uncooked foods, consistent with good food safety practices

Face masks are deemed to be of some use, but only in limited circumstances. The guidance also covers issues such as: port entry restrictions; pre-boarding information and screening; management of suspected cases of infection; cleaning, disinfection and waste management. ICS also published posters that can be put up by ship operators on board their ships for information purposes.

At the end of the document are information posters for crew and passengers, a sample preboarding passenger locator form, and a copy of the WHO COVID-19 support and logistics supplies list.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19)- Guidance for Ship Operators for the Protection of the Health of Seafarers can be freely downloaded at:

Link 01. https://www.ics-shipping.org/docs/default-source/resources/coronavirus-(covid-19)- guidance-for-ship-operators-for-the-protection-of-the-health-ofseafarers.pdf

Link 02.https://www.seafarerswelfare.org/assets/documents/resources/Coronavirus-COVID19-Guidance-for-Ship-Operators-for-the-Protection-of-the-Health-of-Seafarers.pdf

The writer attached to the Department of Marine Engineering, Faculty of Ocean Technology Darma Persada University, Jakarta.  He can be reached at danilarifin.mohammad@gmail.com  or mohammad_danil_arifin@ftk.unsada.ac.id. Views expressed in this article are the author’s own

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