Maritime Safety

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.


Fatal accident of a crew struck by a portable gangway

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When a Hong Kong registered chemical tanker was at berth, the vessel’s portable gangway (the gangway) was placed between the main deck of the vessel and the berth as access. Before departure, when the gangway was being lifted back on board by the vessel’s crane, it struck at the chief officer. The chief officer went ashore for medical treatment, but he refused the doctor’s advice of hospitalization. He returned to the vessel and was declared dead on board later. This Note draws the attention of shipowners, ship managers, ship operators, masters, officers and crew to the lessons learnt from this accident.

The Incident

1. When a Hong Kong registered chemical tanker was berthed at Kuala Tanjung, Indonesia, the vessel’s portable gangway (the gangway) was placed between the main deck and the berth as access. By using the vessel’s crane, the chief officer led a team of deck ratings to lift the gangway back on board before departure from the berth. While the chief officer was investigating the cause that made the gangway got stuck with the vessel’s railing, the gangway suddenly moved and struck at him. The master conducted a visual body check for the chief officer and instructed him to take a rest. The vessel departed the port as per her schedule. The chief officer visited a doctor when the vessel arrived at Pelintung, Indonesia on the next day, but he refused the doctor’s advice of hospitalization. The chief officer returned to the vessel and was declared dead on board later.

2. The investigation revealed that the contributing factors to the accident are as follows:

  1. (a)  as the crane, limited by the arm span, could not reach the gangway’s centre point, the gangway was lifted under an asymmetrical centre line of hoisting thus causing the gangway being subjected to an inboard pulling force when lifted. As a result, the hooks at the end of the gangway were stuck with the vessel’s railing. When the hooks were suddenly freed from the railing, the gangway slid inboard in an uncontrolled manner. The uncontrolled gangway struck the chief officer who was standing at a spot within the danger zone of the gangway’s moving path; and
  2. (b)  the deployment of four guard ropes failed to withhold the sudden inboard swing of the gangway. The risk assessment and the work plan prepared before the gangway lifting operation had not been done properly.

3. A safety issue was also observed in the accident. Seafarers should always consider accepting a doctor’s advice when attending medical treatments. The chief officer might save his own life if he decided to stay in the hospital as advised by the local doctor.

Lessons Learnt

In order to avoid recurrence of a similar accident in future, masters, officers and crew should:

  1. (a)  conduct a proper risk assessment for lifting heavy objects. During lifting operation, no person should stand in the danger zone. Lifting operation under an asymmetrical centre of the lift should be avoided as far as practicable;
  2. (b)  check the medical report of an injured person to confirm whether he/she is still fit for duties/sailing on board; and
  3. (c)  consider duly and accept the doctor’s advice when attending medical treatments.

4. The attention of shipowners, ship managers, ship operators, masters, officers and crew is drawn to the lessons learnt above.