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Ship owners get new guidelines to avoid Covid19

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Shipowners have been issued new guidelines to avoid or manage an outbreak of coronavirus on board ships, courtesy the World Health Organization (WHO).The guidelines include pre-boarding screenings, isolation cabins, outbreak management plans, contact tracing, quarantine, daily cleaning and disinfection.

WHO Operational considerations for managing COVID-19 cases/outbreak on board ships expected shipowners to provide crew guidance so they can recognise signs and symptoms of the virus, such as fever and coughing, recent travel to or residence in China or other world hotspots.

“If a suspect case is identified, the ship should start an outbreak management plan on board, even before laboratory results confirm an infection,” it stated.The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has advised crew to keep a distance from sick people and keep interactions brief. If possible, interactions should be limited to a single crew member.

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It added that: “Crew should wash their hands often and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth. Ships should ensure availability of conveniently located dispensers of an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Crew should wear disposable gloves when in contact with sick people or contaminated areas.

“Seafarers suspected of contracting the virus should immediately wear a mask and be isolated. The ships master must inform the health authorities at the next port of call. Contact tracing should begin immediately. Crew on board a suspected case are assessed as high risk or low risk.

“Anyone who has shared the same cabin, had close contact with the infected person in a closed environment such cabin stewards, restaurant staff, gym trainers, healthcare workers, people dining at the same table or crew working together, are high risk.

“They should remain on board the ship in their cabins or preferably at an onshore facility.“If a test proves positive any people who were in close contact should go into onshore quarantine.

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“Cabins and quarters where patients and close contacts have stayed should be cleaned and disinfected daily. All laundry, food service utensils and waste should be handled as infectious.

“For large ships carrying seafarers from many countries, failure to do so, may have international ramifications.“Once the ship is in port authorities should conduct a risk assessment and decide in consultation with the ship owner whether to end the cruise or voyage.

“Workers should wear eye protection, long sleeved gowns and gloves when loading patients into an ambulance,” it stated.WHO also advises that a ship should be sanitised and have a new crew before sailing.

Meanwhile, the port state control authorities has begun the enforcement of the Sulphur 2020 policy of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) making it an offense for ships to carry fuel that contains a sulphur content higher than 0.5 per cent unless the ship has an exhaust gas cleaning system.The International Chamber of Shipping reminds shipowners and operators of the impending ban and reiterates the fact that any ships found to be non-compliant face the prospect of detention.

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In Nigeria, the Federal Government is working to ensure compliance with the new regulation.Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside said “We are working very hard to ensure that Nigerian operators comply with the rule. We are engaging the shipowners, operators and seafarers. We are also engaging the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) among others to ensure that we have fuels that will be compliant.

“We are developing an enforcement regime. I believe we are the first African nation that installed the hi-tech to monitor sulphur content of fuel in vessels,” he said.

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Guy Platten, Secretary General ICS said: “Since the introduction of IMO 2020 on 1st January, ships have been given a ‘grace period’ while the industry transitions to low-sulphur fuel. As of 1st March this will no longer be the case. Any ship found in non-compliance faces the prospect of serious fines and even detention.

“The International Chamber of Shipping has been made aware that major port State inspection regimes including the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) have made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that detention of ships found to be non-compliant is both possible and leg
ally permissible.

“The information ICS has received is that shipowners are fully compliant and ready for the 1st March. We are simply reminding shipowners and operators that these new rules will come into force as of Sunday 1st March”

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