The COVID-19 handbook focuses on keeping the crew safe, looking after the crew’s mental wellbeing, coming into port, and dealing with visitors the ship. It also focuses on Club cover and provides advice on some of the most common situations a vessel could face in this new environment.

Crew changes, quarantine requirements, disruptions, and delays, have become day-to-day issues in these difficult times. Whilst the wider long-term effects are more unpredictable, what we do know is that those on board and ashore must put procedures in place to ensure the continuing safety of crew and the ongoing protection of their business activities,

...said Lars Rhodin, Managing Director of The Swedish Club.

Looking after the mental wellbeing of your crew: 4 scenarios

Scenario 1: The vessel is quarantined

  • Have enough activities to make time pass.
  • Balance those activities - exercise and sport, connecting with others, and taking quiet time. l Build relationships on board if you can.
  • Make the most of the professional support that is available remotely from port e.g. ship visitors, chaplains etc.
  • Be kind to yourself.

Scenario 2: Unable to land during port closure

In this circumstance anxiety levels may be high. There is the uncertainty of not knowing when you will dock, and if you are due for a crew change when it will begin? People are all different in how they manage worry and there is no one size fits all solution. Distract yourself and try things you haven’t tried before – help others - engage with the crew. You are all quite literally in the same boat. Remember you are not alone, and the entire shipping community is working constantly to ensure crew wellbeing in relation to extended time at sea due to COVID-19.

Scenario 3: Worried about family and friends

This is a natural human response to perceived danger, and there is the urge to rush home to be with your loved ones. It is important to take a breath and consider that such action may put themselves and yourself at risk.

Be aware that you cannot change the situation they find themselves in, and knowing you are safe on board can be a great consolation to your family. Wait until the time is right and safe transportation is available before you plan to return home.

It is also a good idea to restrict your news to the essentials. Don’t be over focused on the virus threat or the economic situation – there’s a lot of news out there and much of it is speculation.

Scenario 4: Worried about your job?

This is a perfectly natural fear. This crisis will end, and the industry will face different challenges. The shipping industry has shouldered many ups and downs over the years, but with 90% of goods transported by sea, the world will need shipping for a long time to come.

Visitors on ship

The shipping industry has published a ‘Heirarchy of controls’ to assist the Master in making the correct decisions at the correct times, to minimise the risks to crew. It is designed to help those from ship and shore to reach agreement on the safety measures each is expecting the other party to follow.

Simple precautions

If attendance on board a ship is unavoidable, the following are some simple steps and precautions that should be taken:

  • Minimise the number of persons attending.
  • Limit interaction with crew members to those involved in performance of duties onboard.
  • Use outer walkways rather than access through the crew accommodation.
  • Limit time inside crew accommodation to the absolute minimum necessary to perform duties on board.
  • Do not shake hands, use a wave, a nod or a bow.
  • Provide sanitising stations at appropriate locations e.g. the ship’s gangway, entry points to accommodation, the bridge, control rooms.
  • Follow general COVID-19 guidance - maintain social distancing, frequently clean your hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand rub, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
  • In the 14 days following a ship visit, if either any shore-based person attending onboard a ship or any of the ship’s crew develop the COVID-19 symptoms, there is then a moral duty to contact those who may have been infected as a result to disclose this information.

1. Eliminate

Elimination of the hazard is the most effective measure to reduce risks.

Work on board should not be conducted if there is a safer method to undertake the task, such as not going to a ship. In a number of instances e.g. conducting audit, surveys, inspections and training, remote possibilities exist which may eliminate the need to go onboard or reduce the numbers of personnel needing to attend.

  • Is attendance on board necessary at this time?
  • Can the work be undertaken remotely?
  • Can the work be postponed?

If attendance on board cannot be eliminated, then can the risk be reduced? For example, can numbers attending be reduced and/or can part of the work normally conducted onboard be reduced e.g. can review of documents and interviews etc. be conducted remotely?

2. Reduce

Can attendance on board be reduced? Where it is not possible to fully eliminate the hazards, the risk could be reduced by minimising the onboard element of the work.

  • Can the numbers of persons attending onboard be reduced and/or the duration of time spent on board be reduced?
  • Can part of the work be undertaken remotely e.g. visual inspections, witnessing drills, interviews?
  • Is it necessary to attend onboard in person or can meetings be set up remotely to reduce numbers attending and reduce duration?
  • Can information be provided for remote review to reduce shipboard attendance?

Once attendance onboard has been reduced as far as possible, then consideration should be given to how to control the remaining risk.

3. Communicate

If onboard attendance of shore-based personnel cannot be eliminated, communicate and understand all participant requirements. Ensure requirements of each party, the ship and the shore-based organisation have been communicated in good time to each other and are assessed and understood.

If there are differences in requirements control measures should be agreed and understood by all parties prior to the shipboard intervention taking place.

  • Have the ship’s and shore-based organisations requirements related to risk management and control of COVID-19 been communicated in good time to all parties prior to arrival? It is envisaged that the ship’s agent will need to play an important role in this regard.
  • Are the requirements of each party understood by the other parties?
  • Are requirements aligned e.g. requirements for the use of PPE? If risk management and requirements of any party are not aligned or not understood, then additional administrative control measures may be necessary.

4. Control

If the requirements of each party, the ship and the shore-based organisation have been communicated to each other and assessed, and are either not understood or there are differences then administrative control measures need to be taken so that all requirements are understood and so that requirements can be mutually agreed and understood by all parties prior to the shipboard intervention taking place.

If the control measures of the ship and the shore-based organisation are not initially aligned or not fully understood, identify actions required to rectify the situation.

Considerations should include:

  • Does additional explanation of requirements need to be provided?
  • If requirements are not understood and or aligned, can control measures be implemented through clarifying requirements and or agreeing mutually acceptable requirements?
  • What protective measures are in place on board and for the attending personnel?
  • Are alternative measures acceptable e.g. ship’s provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) to shore-based personnel?
  • Can social distancing be maintained?
  • Can entry into crew accommodation spaces be avoided/minimized?

Once mutually acceptable requirements that differ to normal practice for either party are agreed the requirements concerned should be clearly communicated and agreed by all parties impacted i.e. all ships’ crew and all shore-based participants.


Explore more herebelow:

COVID-19 Handbook