Maritime Health

Useful resources for seafarers, ship owners and ship management companies, and other members of the maritime industry in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.
Most people who fall sick with COVID-19 will experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover without special treatment.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales. These droplets are too heavy to hang in the air, and quickly fall on floors or surfaces.
You can be infected by breathing in the virus if you are within close proximity of someone who has COVID-19, or by touching a contaminated surface and then your eyes, nose or mouth.

We have compiled some useful resources for seafarers, ship owners and ship management companies, and other members of the maritime industry in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak*. Please find a list of links and some useful documents below:

World Health Organization:

International Maritime Organization:

International Chamber of Shipping:

International Transport Workers’ Federation:

COVID-19 Information Dashboard (country- and port-specific advice on COVID-19 measures):

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Global Port Restrictions Map (updated daily):

Management of Suspected COVID-19 on Board (information for officers responsible for medical treatment on board ships and mobile offshore units):

CHIRP Maritime (April 2020):

Coronavirus – How to Beat it (free-of-charge awareness video by Seagull and Videotel):

Coronavirus – Stay Safe on Board (video produced by Marine Media Enterprises with the support of Columbia Ship Management, ISWAN and Steamship Mutual):

Note: The COVID-19 scenario is constantly changing so please refer to the WHO website for the latest guidance and updates.

Coronavirus Battling On Ships–Measures Seafarers Should take

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The outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has placed the shipping industry in the grip of uncertainty and stagnation.

Many maritime industry stakeholders are feeling the heat in terms of company cutbacks and losses.

China, the largest player in the global shipping market for containers, has been hit hardest and has impacted the entire maritime industry.

Other major shipping hubs such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Hamburg etc. have also been deeply affected by the coronavirus.

The ship’s crew being in the centre of all of these is a vital element in keeping the transportation running to avoid the further downfall of the global economy.

Recently, several crew members of cruise and cargo ships have been tested positive for COVID 19, further making the shipping operations extremely difficult.

To effectively tackle this situation, all major ship operators and regulatory authorities have issued important guidelines for the ship’s crew.

While there is already a lot of standardised information out there, at INTLREG we feel it is important to provide more detailed information and procedures to eliminate ambiguity, and to set guidelines for the ship’s staff to combat COVID 19.

Apart from all the directives provided in the Guidance for ship operators, the following additional steps can be taken by the ship’s crew to stay safe from getting infected by the coronavirus:

  • Keep a check on the health of all ship staff i.e. body temperature etc. on a daily basis.
  • Before reaching the port, the assigned gangway watch-keeper should be provided with essential protective clothing, including mask eyeglass, and disposable apron etc.
  • The management on the ship should ensure enough hand sanitiser, disinfectant, gloves, mask, disposable apron/ boiler suits are available onboard or requisition has been raised under urgent remark
  • The ship office to attend shore personnel is usually located inside the accommodation area, near the entry door. If possible, an area on the open deck (by making a makeshift office) or bosun cabin or any storeroom which is separated from the crew accommodation can be assigned as ship office
  • Do not allow anyone to enter the accommodation area except those who are authorised or representing customs or medical/ quarantine port staff
  • At the gangway entry, keep a hand sanitiser and ensure the person entering uses the same. Any person entering the ship should wear a mask. The gangway watch-keeper can monitor the temperature of all people entering the ship and raise an objection if anyone has body temperature or cough/cold
  • When performing cargo watch in the affected port, keep a distance from the port personal
  • When going down in the jetty for checking draft etc., wear all protective equipment such as masks, goggles, disposable aprons, disposable gloves etc.
  • The crew should avoid going into each other cabins
  • The department in charge should provide adequate rest hours and avoid giving additional work when the ship is in affected port
  • Lock the common toilet and keep it closed in port
  • The crew lunch or dinner can be divided in different timings so that there is no overcrowding in the mess room and people have enough space to sit in distance from each other
  • All the hand railing inside the accommodation, staircase support railing, elevator buttons etc. should be regularly cleaned with disinfectants
  • All the mess room cutleries to be properly washed before and after usage
  • Have a concrete disposable plan and separate bins to dispose of face mask, apron etc, used in COVID 19 affected ports
  • Avoid touching ship railings, equipment, instruments unnecessarily
  • When working on a common ship computer, clean the keyboards with disinfectant after use and dispose of the cleaning cloth or tissue paper etc.
  • Walkie talkies are shared among the crew, hence, they can be put inside a disposable plastic cover and before handing it to another watch-keeper or putting it in the charging dock, remove and dispose the plastic sheet cover and clean it with disinfectant
  • Accommodation air condition system can be changed from recirculation to fresh air intake
  • All the portable air conditioning system (in ECR, bridge etc.) have their own filters which need to be cleaned regularly
  • Fresh stationery to be issued to each crew member. They should not be interchanged or crew should not use other’s stationery if possible
  • If the provisions or spares are received in port, they should be received in a separate area without allowing outside people entering the accommodation. If the provision is received in the affected port, the boxes received can either be given back to the supplier or each box should be wiped with a cloth dipped in disinfectant.
  • Avoid immediate use of the provision received in affected port and keep it separate from the current store being consumed
  • When there is sign-in of the crew in the affected port or country, avoid any physical interaction i.e. handshake etc. and clean their luggage with cloth dipped in disinfectant
  • The sign-in crew should first take shower and change in ship work clothing before reporting to the Master
  • Avoid handling of luggage/bag of port representative, pilot, surveyor etc. and advise them to clean it with cloth dipped in disinfectant
  • Washing of clothes and boiler suit should be done separately by each individual
  • When steward washes the linen of the officers, ensure to use disinfectant liquid approved for washing clothes
  • Prepare a separate isolation cabin in advance, which should be at the corner of the accommodation
  • The crew should be trained for responsible behaviour and self-reporting if feeling feverish or having cough/ cold symptoms
  • Avoid ship parties and get together
  • Avoid team meetings or carry out the meeting if necessary in bigger rooms or in the open area so that crew can be at a distance from each other
  • Avoid any drills in the affected port
  • Though there are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding COVID 19, panic is something we should ignore at any cost. A sensible, consistent, and collective effort will help us fight this disease and prevent it from further spreading.

Over to our fellow followers…

What further precautions should we take to tackle this problem?

Let’s hear it in the comments below.

Cleaning and disinfection practices on Ships in COVID-19 case

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As vital as the Maritime industry is to the world and its people, equally important is the work of the brave seafarers who perform one of the toughest jobs in the world by running those massive ships through the roughest seas and riskiest areas. INTLREG is concerned with health, safety and well-being of seafarers across the globe. To all our Seafarers who are still making sure all our vessels make it to their destinations, please read below  to make sure that you are taking the precautions and are safe.

Maintaining good hygiene onboard plays a major role against all seaborne diseases. Given the recent Coronavirus outbreak, crew members onboard more than ever need to be aware of the key practices for their safety and protection; routine cleaning, proper disinfection practices and appropriate treatment of waste produced from the COVID-19 are among those practices that can play an essential role in minimising the spread of the virus in case a suspected case of COVID-19 is found onboard.

Key tips for cleaning and disinfecting

In case of coronavirus emergency, it is advisable to clean all areas but apply disinfectant ONLY on surfaces/items with direct contact with person having presented COVID-19 symptoms, especially the areas which may have been occupied by the person etc. Do not use disinfection to the areas which are not relevant to potential transmission, such as floor, carpet, walls, etc.

Clean the hard, non-porous surface first with detergent and water, and then apply disinfectants according to the product instructions. Ensure correct concentrations and sufficient contact time for effective disinfection. Carefully remove porous materials, where possible, such as upholstery, rugs, and carpeting that have been in contact with the suspect case. Launder in accordance with the product instructions or dispose of the materials as described below.

Waste disposal containers in the area, where a person presenting COVID-19 symptoms has been in direct contact with surfaces/items and may be possibly contaminated, should be emptied prior to starting surface cleaning and disinfection. Waste disposal containers located in contaminated areas should be emptied by persons wearing PPE.

Key requirements for crew members in charge

Crew or personnel on board in charge of cleaning and disinfection should:

  1. Have knowledge of how to prepare correct dilutions and the contact time for the disinfectant being used
  2. Limit hand contact with the face, especially the nose and eyes
  3. Use PPE (disposable gloves, mask, gown) to be protected from direct contact with chemicals and against direct contact with secretions/blood/body fluids.
  4. Change PPE frequently, especially if they become damaged during cleaning and disinfection
  5. Use eye protection apparatus, if splashing is expected, prior to entering the contaminated areas
  6. Use additional barriers (e.g., leg covers, shoe covers) as needed
  7. If reusable heavy-duty gloves are used for cleaning and disinfecting, they should be properly disinfected after use
  8. Be familiarised with the appropriate disposal of contaminated PPE
  9. Used PPE should be disposed of in plastic bags, tied up, and labelled with a biohazard symbol. Do not shake the PPE while handling to prevent producing aerosols
  10. Hands must be washed using soap and warm water for a sufficient period of time (20 to 30 seconds) to remove any infectious material.

Moreover, all used PPE and all soiled items (used tissues, disposable masks, tubing, linen, pillows, blankets, mattresses not covered with an impermeable plastic covering, etc.) in the contaminated areas, should be treated as Bio hazardous waste (classified as Category A infectious waste UN 2814 for transportation) and stored in an impermeable plastic bag labelled biohazard. The bag should be tied up, not reopened and disposed according to the protocol of the ship for clinical waste. If incinerator is available on board, then waste must be incinerated. If waste must be delivered ashore, then special precautions are needed and the port authority should be informed before waste delivery.


Coronavirus outbreak: Key protection measures for seafarers

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The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), USCG and Transport Malta, following the rest of the shipping industry, provide their advice to crew members on how to be protected by the coronavirus.

ITF Advice for crew members

  1. Encourage all onboard to practice hand and respiratory hygiene especially when coughing or sneezing.
  2. Crew should use hand sanitiser/wash hands following contact with any passenger or other crew.
  3. If on a layover in a country with a known coronavirus outbreak, crew are advised to remain in hotel accommodation as much as possible and practice hand and respiratory hygiene and safe food practices.

The following advice from the International Maritime Health Association is more specific to the maritime industry, seafarers and dock workers:

  1. Do not restrict embarkation/disembarkation of seafarers in non-affected ports
  2. Do not restrict necessary ship visits by port agents, chaplains, service personnel and others.
  3. Do not visit food markets in China and avoid provision of fish and poultry in China.
  4. Do not consume raw eggs, milk, meat.
  5. Observe strict food hygiene to avoid cross contamination
  6. Ensure facial protection is provided for all crew (5 pieces /per person)
  7. Provide influenza vaccination, alcohol-based hand sanitiser and facial protection for ship inspectors and other crew who travel to China.
  8. If a crew member on board falls sick and has been travelling to affected areas 2-12 days before embarkation, the person must stay in his/her cabin.
  9. If a crew member is sick on board a ship, fill out the maritime declaration of health and notify the relevant port authority and consult a healthcare providers in the next port.

In addition, the USCG issued more advise concerning the Coronavirus outbreak, as such:

  1. Vessel representatives are required to report sick or deceased crew/passengers within the last 15 days to the CDC under 42 CFR 71.21.
  2. The Coast Guard will continue to review all “Notice of Arrivals” in accordance with current policies and will communicate any concerns stemming from sick or deceased crew or passengers to their Coast Guard chain of command and the CDC quarantine station who will coordinate with local health authorities.
  3. Vessel masters shall inform Coast Guard boarding teams of any ill crew members on board their vessel prior to the Coast Guard embarking and Boarding Teams should verify vessel illnesses with CDC if concerns arise.
  4.  Local industry stakeholders, in partnership with their Coast Guard Captain of the Port, should review and be familiar with section 5310 Procedures for Vessel Quarantine and Isolation, and Section 5320 – Procedures for Security Segregation of Vessels in their Area Maritime Security Plan.
  5. Local industry stakeholders, in partnership with their Coast Guard Captain of the Port, should review and be familiar with their Marine Transportation System Recovery Plan.

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Global Shipping Body (ICS) issues guidance to shipowners in the face of the Corona Virus

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Global Shipping Body (ICS) issues guidance to shipowners in the face of the Corona Virus

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the global shipping body representing 80% of the world’s merchant fleet, is advising its membership to take steps that limit the spread of the novel Corona Virus (2019-nCov). The instructions reflect advice given from the World Health Organisation (WHO), who stated that if certain measures are taken, there should be no “unnecessary restrictions of international traffic”, meaning ports and global shipping can continue to operate.

Guy Platten, the Secretary General of ICS commented:

“The shipping industry will always prioritise the health of our crew and members of the public above all else. We have recommended that all our members across the world follow the WHO measures. As an industry, we fully understand the importance of playing our role in halting the spread of viruses.

“By implementing the measures in their entirety, we are avoiding the needless closure of any port. Shipping can continue to be the conduit for 90% of world trade, ensuring the steady supply of medicine, food and fuel for consumers worldwide. We are thankful that the WHO has avoided a knee jerk reaction, which would do nobody any favours.”

Advice provided to shipowners highlights the need for:

  • Exit screening at ports in the affected areas to detect symptomatic travellers and prevent the exportation of the disease. This includes checking for signs and symptoms and keeping confirmed cases under isolation and treatment.
  • Implementing health information campaigns to raise awareness on how to receive assistance if someone is showing symptoms.
  • Collaborating with public health authorities for case management on board ships, should a traveller with symptoms be detected.

The ICS takes its responsibilities on safeguarding public health extremely seriously. It has shared WHO guidelines to its members on how best reduce the possibility of the spread of 2019-nCov.

The trade body has urged all members to fully adopt the guidelines. Doing so avoids the unnecessary closure of ports, that facilitate 90% of global trade, including the transportation of medicines that underpin the health industry, as well as food and fuel supplies.

Should the WHO recommendations change with the closure of specific ports for medical reasons, we would recommend that the port in question and shipowners follow this advice. ICS will continue to keep a close watch on the situation and will notify its members of developments.