A great deal has changed since March, when the International Chamber of Shipping first issued guidance for the global shipping industry to help combat the spread of COVID-19. The entire world has been affected, seeing 32 million cases and more than one million deaths globally*. Whilst deaths, and indeed infection rates on ships, stand at almost nothing in comparison, seafarers face the same risks as the general population and it is important to recognise that following health guidelines is essential to maintain this situation.
With that experience, knowledge of COVID-19 has substantially increased, and the International Chamber of Shipping has now published a new, fully updated version of Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Guidance for Ship Operators for the Protection of the Health of Seafarers, reflecting the latest thinking and advice on the virus. Version 3 has an updated introduction reflecting the situation nine months on from the start of the global pandemic and adds two new annexes on PCR testing and Managing Multiple Cases of COVID-19 On Board Vessels. This replaces version 2, published in May, and should be read in conjunction with COVID-19 – Protocols to Mitigate the Risks of Cases On Board Ships.
The new 48-page Guidance has been developed with support from a number of prominent international bodies including:
- The International Maritime Organization (IMO)
- The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)
- The International Maritime Health Association (IMHA)
- The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF)
The measures highlighted in the Guidance include advice on managing port entry restrictions, shipboard measures to address risks associated with COVID-19, managing cases of COVID-19 on board ship when at sea, assistance for all seafarers to access medical care when in ports, and dealing with other medical issues during COVID-19.
In addition to the new PCR Testing Procedures Matrix, the publication also includes updated practical advice on the use of masks, renewing prescriptions, support and logistics supply, decision making for on board suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases and measures to enhance mental health and wellbeing. It contains sample crew/passenger locator cards and health self-declaration forms, and a number of posters that can be printed out and displayed.
Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping says: 'Our seafarers continue to work tirelessly to ensure the global supply of goods and services during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is essential that governments and shipping companies do all they can to support this updated Guidance and seafarers use its recommendations to ensure we all do our bit to keep everyone safe.'
The Guidance is for use on all types of ship and aims to recognise the needs of both cargo and passenger ships. It is recognised that cargo ships are unlikely to have a fully trained doctor or nurse on board and that medical treatment on cargo ships will be provided by a crew member with training to STCW medical requirements.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Guidance for Ship Operators for the Protection of the Health of Seafarers will be distributed to seafarers through the International Chamber of Shipping’s network of national member associations, is free to download below and from the International Chambers of Shipping’s website www.ics-shipping.org. The Guidance will be shared via social media and through partner organisations that contributed to the publication.
*Source: Johns Hopkins University