The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), along with the International Maritime Health Association (IMHA) and the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO), have issued new protocols to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 cases on board. The protocols aim to safeguard the health of seafarers and guarantee the safe operations of maritime trade – offering governments and the general public reassurance that seafarers can embark and disembark ships safely.
Recently, there have been concerns over COVID-19 infections on board ships, due to a small minority failing to adhere to industry guidance. While the number of cases has been limited, newly issued protocols will provide shipowners and operators with the tools to safely manage cases on vessels. Building on previous health guidance released by ICS in May, the new protocols equip ships operators with two useful instruments:
- A flowchart to help identify the process to follow when managing a larger number of suspected cases on vessels; and
- A PCR testing procedures matrix to help identify what to do and when prior to boarding and if a suspect case is identified on ships.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 related travel restrictions have limited the global shipping industry’s ability to rotate ships’ crew. There are now over a quarter of a million seafarers stranded at sea, waiting to be repatriated.
In light of this humanitarian crisis and its far-reaching impact on the industry, ICS put forward COVID-19 health guidance in March, updated in May, to protect the health of seafarers and passengers, as well as the general public.
These comprehensive documents ensure the safe operations of maritime trade and serve as a reassurance to governments that crew change and seaborne trade pose limited health risks.
Natalie Shaw, Director of Employment Affairs for the International Chamber of Shipping said:
“The new protocols build on our previous guidance and should give confidence to the industry and governments that maritime trade can operate safely. Especially when there are suspected COVID-19 cases on board.
“We have observed a small number of COVID-19 cases among ships’ crew in recent weeks and decided to take the initiative to create new protocols, together with IMHA and INTERTANKO.”