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ICS issues new protocols to mitigate Covid-19 risks onboard ships

Photo: V.Group V.Group Crew Change 1 (002).jpg
Shipowners and managers are being left to make their own way through Covid-19 red tape to repatriate crew
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) together with the International Maritime Health Association (IMHA) and tanker owners’ body Intertanko have drawn up new protocols designed to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 cases on board ships.

ICS describes the protocols as “an effective tool” that aims to safeguard the health of seafarers, passengers and the general public alike, and ensure the safe operation of maritime trade.

The new measures build on previous health guidance issued by the shipowners’ body in May, an update deemed necessary because of “concerns over Covid-19 infections on board ships, due to a small minority failing to adhere to industry guidance,” says the ICS.

The latest protocols advise on how seafarers can embark and disembark ships safely, even in the event of there being cases on infection aboard, and contain what are described as two useful instruments for ship operators:

- a flowchart to help identify the process to follow when managing a larger number of suspected cases on vessels; and 

-  a PCR testing procedures matrix to help identify what to do and when prior to boarding and if a suspect case is identified on ships.

The new protocols are designed to reassure governments that “crew change and seaborne trade pose limited health risks,” concludes the ICS – a matter of some urgency given the current “humanitarian crisis” where it points out “over a quarter of a million seafarers are stranded at sea, awaiting repatriation.”

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