One of the most efficient preventive measures is testing employees before they join the vessel. Numerous cruise line and shipping companies have established protocols wherein the crew member tests either in his home country before he starts the trip or once he has arrived to the port.
The majority of the companies prefer PCR Swap testing- the only viable way to understand if the person is infected or not at the moment of testing.
Other options such as temperature measuring or antibodies blood testing are not relevant.
The fact that the person does not have fever would only show that this person is not symptomatic, but it will not prevent this crew member from being asymptomatic and infecting the rest of the crew.
An Anti-bodies test is quicker and cheaper than PCR, but only shows if the person has had the virus. If he did, it is than, unlikely, he would be infected. While if the person does not have antibodies, he might be infected at the moment of joining the vessel and the test would not reveal this infection in any way. Antibodies only appear when the illness is gone or almost gone.
Each country has its own rules and regulations in terms of testing, and it might be quite challenging for the cruise line to follow the protocol, having to find out the legislation at every particular location.
Some countries only provide tests in state facilities, while some countries allow private laboratories to make the test. Some countries require medical prescription, others don’t. In some locations the member has to call personally to get the appointment, as he will have to answer several personal questions before he is allowed to the clinic. Some facilities consider travel history before they confirm the appointment. It is impossible for any HR department to keep track of all these details, therefore a trusted professional medical assistance partner is of great help.
AP Companies has developed a comprehensive network of laboratories in the main ports and different countries in order to support its maritime clients in this new requirement.
There are 3 major ways of testing:
- The most obvious one, when the crew member has to visit the medical centre in order to perform the test
- The crew member can also stay in the hotel and get the test by post and then send the extracted sample back to the laboratory. In this case, the laboratory would provide a special package in order to avoid any risk for the people involved in this service, in case the test is positive.
- The vessel can purchase a considerable amount of tests, and have them on board. When the crew member needs to join the vessel, he is placed in isolation. The ship doctor performs the test and sends it to the laboratory for analysis, using the special package provided by the laboratory. This way is not applicable for commercial shipping, due to the structure of the crew, but is very frequent in the case of ocean cruise lines.
AP Companies is able to provide COVID 19 testing in the majority of the continents: Europe, Asia, South America. The network of laboratories is constantly growing. Depending on the volume of the tests and the location, the price can vary from 35 euro up to 350 euro.
AP Companies, international medical assistance partner of many cruise lines and other shipping companies is very happy to provide the required support in this constantly changing times.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.