In the first few weeks of the coronavirus being declared a pandemic, ships and their crews found themselves facing a range of issues at ports, sometimes as extreme as refusal of entry.
In response IMO, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and a coalition of industry associations have issued guidance intended to ensure a safe shipboard interface between ship and shore-based personnel.
IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.16 aims “to address major concerns and expectations of ship’s crews and shore-based personnel through the implementation of practical, risk-based measures to address Covid-19 risks to all personnel involved in the ship/shore interface.
ICS’s Principal Director-Marine, Jonathan Spremulli said: “The COVID-19 pandemic is creating unprecedented challenges for the maritime sector. To keep everybody safe in the sector, including ships’ crews and shore-based personnel visiting ships to do essential work, it is clear that we are all going to have to work together and cooperate to ensure that we all have a safe place to work.”
He added: “The message from this guidance is that clear communication is vital. We need to reduce the risk to all parties and communication is key. The maritime sector has to continue to operate so that countries can maintain essential supplies of food, fuel and other goods, including vital medical supplies, that we all need. But we must do this safely and in a way that eliminates the risk of infection for our seafarers and those coming aboard.”
For its part IBIA has been offering practical advice to its members to mitigate the risk of infection during bunkering operations.
IBIA advises that the key issues for any personnel involved in a bunker delivery – barge crew, ship crew, surveyors or agents – are to minimise touching surfaces which may be contaminated. The virus is unlikely to persist on bunker hoses, flanges, valve wheels etc. and in any case, gloves should always be worn in these circumstances.
Towards the end of April, IBIA invited members to participate in discussions about the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, which has created unexpected and unique challenges. Two main areas were covered, the impact of social distancing measures on the practicalities around bunkering and the financial implications as we deal with wild price fluctuations and economic uncertainty. IBIA Director Unni Einemo said: “Problems and concerns were aired, but we also heard evidence that our industry remains resilient and participants are finding ways to manage.”
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