In light of the COVID-19 situation, World Health Organization (WHO) issued guidance in order to protect the seafarers working onboard cargo ships and fishing vessels amid the pandemic.
The document provides guidance to all shipowners, seafarers, unions and associations for health and transport on protecting seafarers working onboard cargo ships and fishing vessels during the outbreak.
Seafarers work in close contact environments likely to facilitate transmission of COVID-19. In some cases, they embark on extended voyages without calling at any port for long periods. An outbreak on board a ship is a concern for the safety and well-being of the crew and may affect the crew’s ability to safely navigate and operate the ship.
Following the above, shipowners are advised to develop a written contingency plan covering surveillance and reporting; case management; cleaning and disinfection; communication; and training.
According to WHO, shipping industry should take general preventive measures against coronavirus, such as:
- Minimize the number of non-crew members boarding the ship and ensure that shore personnel move only into authorized zones.
- Shore personnel should use outer walkways rather than gaining access through the crew’s quarters.
- Crew members must remain at least 1 m apart from one another and from shore personnel.
- Hand hygiene stations, such as handwashing facilities and dispensers for alcohol-based hand rub, should be put in prominent places around the ship and be accessible to all staff.
- Crew members should consider using a fabric mask while on board conveyances and in crowded places, where physical distancing is not possible.
- In accordance with the IHR (2005), the master or skipper of the ship must immediately inform the competent health authority at the next port of call about any suspected case of COVID-19.
What is more, WHO focused on the use of the mask as it describes when and where personal protective masks are recommended for use by the ship’s crew and shore personnel in different working zones on the ship.
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