The International Maritime Health Association (IMHA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have publicised information to maritime companies regarding the most effective ways to reduce the risk of infection from Coronavirus. This information has since been shared by IMO to all IMO Member States, intergovernmental organisations and non-governmental organisations in consultative status with IMO.
As stated in the IMO’s circular letter, ‘the current outbreak originated in Wuhan City, which is a major domestic and international transport hub. Given the large population movements and the observed human-to-human transmission, it is not unexpected that new confirmed cases will continue to appear in other areas and countries.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. Infection from humans to humans may occur during the incubation period (before persons show signs of sickness). Coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.”
Thus far, there are no reports of Coronavirus on board superyachts. However, the wider maritime industry, from shipping to cruising, has unfortunately felt the effects of the rapidly spreading virus.
As of January 26th 2020, the WHO has provided the below advice, specific to shipping crew 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
- Further information: www.who.int
Below are the precautions that can be taken to protect yourself from getting infected, according to the IMHA and WHO.
- 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 the 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.
The maritime industry is now also seeing an increased demand for Eastern European crew, according to crewing specialists, Danica, who have reported that it is increasingly having to step in to assist with crewing problems, especially where crew changeovers are overdue.
“We are getting requests for help from shipping companies which would normally employ seafarers of Chinese nationality because crew members are not able to join the vessels due to the travel bans,” said Henrik Jensen, Managing Director, Danica. “Fortunately we have so far been able to cover these requests as the increased demand is relative small compared to the large number of Eastern European crew available in the countries we cover. As a result, this shortage is not currently impacting salary levels.
“All our seafarers joining these vessels are informed about the precautions to be taken and we have not yet experienced any reluctance from Eastern European seafarers to join vessels,” Jensen added. “However, we do see some disturbances in the flow of crew changes of all nationalities due to vessels being idle off the Chinese coast or in countries where travel restrictions prevent seafarers from joining or leaving vessels. We are monitoring this fast-changing situation daily and keeping all our owners, vessels and crew up to date with the latest situation.”
The most recent statement from the WHO and IMHA can be found here, courtesy of the IMO.
Further information and advice regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19), can be found here.
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