Operators calling at ports in China must be aware of the new coronavirus, which according to the World Health Organisation (“WHO”) may be linked to cases of pneumonia first reported in Wuhan City, Hubei province, on 31 December 2019.
The virus is similar to the common cold and SARS, and has spread to other cities in China, including some port cities such as Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin, and countries internationally.
As of today, there are about 4,000 confirmed cases, most of which in China. Cases were also reported in Thailand, Japan, the US, the Republic of Korea, France and Germany.
Addressing this alerting development, London P&I Club, cites Oasis P&I Services Company Limited, saying that ships calling at Chinese ports must take certain precautions and measures to prevent the risks of spreading the coronavirus.
This includes alerting the authorities in case coronavirus is suspected on board, taking precautions to reduce the possibility of the spread of any virus, including handwashing, use of masks and disembarking the vessel only where absolutely necessary. More specifically:
- In case any suspected case of coronavirus is found on board, the ship should report to the owners immediately and arrange to seek professional medical assistance from ashore for the affected crewmember as early as possible. At the same time, proper prevention and separation measures should be taken to avoid contact with other crewmembers to reduce the possibility of any virus being spread. Furthermore, owners are required to report such cases to local quarantine authorities under relevant laws;
- Vessels visiting Chinese ports during this period are suggested to minimize interpersonal exchanges with people from ashore as much as possible. Ships are also reminded to alert the crew of the risks at ports where coronavirus cases have been reported and require them to take necessary precautionary measures such as wearing masks, etc;
- During the ship’s stay at Chinese ports where confirmed cases have been reported, the crew are suggested to be more careful with personal hygiene, such as wearing masks, washing hands more frequently, avoiding contact with people who show symptoms of flu or high temperature etc. Disembarkation is suggested to be avoided unless it is absolutely necessary.
In addition, Huatai Insurance Agency & Consultant Service Ltd has informed that the Authorities are requiring all vessels to report the temperature and condition of vessel’s crew before entry into the port.
Signs of infection of the Coronavirus include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
In case of symptoms suggestive to respiratory illness, travelers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share travel history with their health care provider.
The basic principles to reduce the general risk of transmission of acute respiratory infections are the following:
- Avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.
- Frequent handwashing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment.
- Avoiding unprotected contact with farm or wild animals.
- People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands.
In addition, the cruise industry takes its measures against Coronavirus. More specifically:
- Royal Caribbean: Spectrum of the Seas, Costa Atlantica, Costa Venezia, and MSC Splendida have cancelled their departures from the International Cruise Terminal in Baoshan District;
- Costa Cruises: Suspension of all operations from China until February 4. Operations at other major Chinese ports have also been halted;
- Norwegian Cruise Line: Introduction of non-touch temperature screenings for all passengers embarking from Chinese ports. Guest with a body temperature screening of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius or higher will not be allowed to board and will be directed to seek local medical treatment. What is more, guests travelling from Wuhan, China or who have been in the city in the last 30 days will be denied boarding;
- Royal Caribbean Cruises Asia Pacific: Will not permit passengers who visited Wuhan including those who are from the region to board their ships;
- Princess Cruises in Asia: No plans to change their itineraries and if necessary they will introduce pre-boarding disease reporting for passengers arriving from affected areas;
- Crystal Cruises: Closely monitoring developments related to the coronavirus, including recommendations from the World Health Organization.