ISWAN shares the insight of Dr Sue Stannard, Consultant at the Norwegian Centre of Maritime and Diving Medicine, who explains the current challenges the shipping industry faces due to COVID-19 and provides advice on how to manage close contacts onboard.
There have been many guidelines and recommendations published concerning potential COVID-19 cases onboard. In addition, Dr Stannard explains what seafarers can do onboard in case of close contacts.
In a shipboard environment the sick seafarer is likely to have been in contact with many/most of the other seafarers, depending upon the size of the ship, number of people on board and of course the position of that seafarer.
The ICS guidance advises that close contacts, and therefore seafarers at high risk of transmission of the virus specifically include those that have:
- had close contact within one metre or were in a closed environment with a suspect/confirmed COVID-19 case (for example tank work, shared watch in an engine control room, eaten a meal with);
- participated in the same immediate travelling group without quarantine before boarding the ship;
- been a cabin steward who cleaned the cabin of a suspect/confirmed case of COVID-19.
Dr Stannard highlights that
If the number of high-risk close contacts is relatively small, they should be asked to quarantine in their cabin as long as to do so would not endanger the safety of the ship, those on board, or the ship’s operation.
Concerning a smaller vessel, if one seafarers develops possible COVID-19 all seafarers will be close contacts and should therefore quarantine for up to 14 days. Given that a small vessel has a small number of crewmembers, quarantine of the crew means that the vessel operations will be severely impaired and the ship unable to function.
In these circumstances, all seafarers should self-monitor for symptoms and report anything suggestive of COVID-19 immediately
… Dr Stannard notes.