Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
Shipping is vital to the world supply chain. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that all personnel involved are protected from infection, including those onboard ships and shore personnel who may need to temporarily go on ships or interact with seafarers.
IMO has circulated World Health Organization (WHO) guidance on the safe and effective use of personal protective equipment (PPE), to support decisions on use of PPE to minimize the risks of COVID-19 infection for seafarers, marine personnel, fishing vessel personnel, passengers and others on board ships.
This guidance also applies to shore personnel intending to go on board (such as pilots, port workers, port State control officers, ships’ agents and so forth); and when any of these people interact with each other.
The PPE guidance is available here per CL.No.4204/Add.15: Coronavirus (COVID 19) - Personal protective equipment http://www.imo.org/en/MediaCentre/HotTopics/Documents/COVID%20CL%204204%20adds/Circular%20Letter%20No.4204-Add.15%20-%20Coronavirus%20(Covid%2019)%20-%20Personal%20Protective%20Equipment.pdf
To support decision making and risk assessment, IMO has also circulated practical measures to address COVID-19 risks for all people involved on ships and in ports when they may need to interact with each other, available here per CL.No.4204/Add.16: Coronavirus (COVID 19) – COVID-19 related guidelines for ensuring a safe shipboard interface between ship and shore-based personnel
Recognizing that there are differences in national requirements, the guidelines propose a straightforward system to evaluate the risks and communicate the control measures that will be put in place, by mutual agreement, to reduce infection risk. They also propose simple steps and precautions to take if attendance onboard a ship is unavoidable. These include minimising the number of persons attending; using outer walkways rather than access through the crew accommodation; frequently cleaning hands and maintaining social distancing.
The COVID-19 related guidelines for ensuring a safe shipboard interface between ship- and shore- based personnel were proposed by a broad cross section of global industry associations in consultative status with IMO: ICS, IAPH, BIMCO, IACS, IFSMA, IMPA, INTERTANKO, P&I Clubs, CLIA, INTERCARGO, InterManager, IPTA, FONASBA, and WSC.
Account was also taken of input from the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC) and the International Support Vessel Owners’ Association (ISOA).
Our picture shows a Carnival line up. Five Carnival ships are due in Durban in week commencing 24 May. (Photo: www.africaports.co.za )
No less than five Carnival Cruise ships are due to arrive in Durban between 26 and 28 May to take on bunkers and to restock depleted supplies.
These five ships are part of a group of 12 engaged in the humanitarian task of repatriating over 26,000 crew from the Carnival fleet and other companies, as well as personnel from entertainment centres ashore, who because of the coronavirus pandemic, have had their employment suddenly curtailed.
Hotel staff and entertainers
These are the entertainment staff, the onboard shop workers, beauty salon practitioners, waiters and bus boys, chefs and kitchen staff, cabin cleaners, pursers and front desk people all making up the staff working on board cruise ships.
With cruising curtailed these former employees are finally returning home to destinations like India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines after having remained on board their ships for more than two months, unable to go ashore or receive visitors ever since cruising operations were suspended in mid -March. Ahead they face another three or four weeks at sea before being allowed to disembark. However, there’s something of a problem.
Call to governments
IFSMA* calls upon Governments to adopt the ‘Framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the COVID-19 pandemic’ without delay to allow ship owners and management companies to change over their dangerously tired crews.
Governments must act now in order to avoid personal injury to, and mental breakdown of, seafarers and avoid the significant risk of accidents and consequential danger to life and the environment.
Concern at IFSMA
IFSMA is receiving an increasing number of reports from its ship masters’ associations around the world concerned for the welfare and safety of crews and the increased risk with which they are operating in an already high risk environment. Seafarers are feeling let down and abandoned by their Governments.
Following concerns from the maritime industry, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) issued a circular to all Member States, the UN and agencies and IGOs and NGOs in consultative status with IMO. This document concerned recommendations to Member States about measures to facilitate ship crew changes in seaports during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The IMO Secretary General has received a framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the pandemic, proposed by a cross-section of global industry associations in consultative status with the IMO, for example: ICS, IAPH, BIMCO, IFSMA, and P&I Clubs as well as the International Air Transport Association (IATA).