In the early stages of the pandemic, seafarers were classified as essential personnel. Since then, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other relevant bodies have issued guidelines to protect the health and safety of crew members.
If you’re shipping internationally, you’ll need to be aware of the protocols related to quarantine and COVID-19. The IMO published an update to their policies in October, regarding isolation before departure. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have also issued guidelines concerning cargo ships.
Based on the advice of these organizations, which protocols do you need to adhere to when it comes to quarantine and cargo shipments?
Preventive Measures Ashore
The best way to handle quarantine is to try to prevent COVID-19 from spreading onto your ship at all. Preventive measures should start before crew members embark. The CDC recommends interviewing crew members privately to ask about symptoms. When possible, all crew members should be tested for COVID-19 as well.
Shipping companies also have a responsibility to educate and inform their crew members on the best hygiene practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Companies should also outline the company’s plan for preventing, identifying, and containing the disease on board the ship.
Preventive Measures Onboard
Once crew members are aboard, they should adhere to strict cleanliness and hygiene standards. The IMO states companies are responsible for providing crew members with the right products to clean, such as hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent ethanol or 70 percent isopropanol. Everyone onboard is considered a “close contact” according to the CDC and they should practice social distancing, wear face masks at all times, and wash their hands regularly. Crew members should also have their own cabins and bathrooms when possible.
The IMO also recommends that crew members check their temperatures twice daily and record them in a log. Crew members should also be aware of the symptoms related to COVID-19 and monitor themselves.
If There Are COVID-19 Cases Onboard
The IMO, CDC, and ECDC all have protocols if a case of COVID-19 is identified onboard. All recommend the person and their close contacts isolate in their cabins for 14 days. Companies should also provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to crew members in this situation.
If a crew member is in quarantine, they must not leave their room for any reason and have meals delivered to them with disposable packaging and silverware. The person should also clean their cabin and set all soiled linens, food, or garbage in sealed bags outside the door of their cabin. The CDC recommends that companies treat any COVID-19 symptoms as a positive case in the absence of a test.
Options According to CDC
To deal with a quarantine situation, the CDC recommends three options that shipping companies can take.
- Have the crew disembark and self-isolate for 14 days. Have the ship professionally cleaned and disinfected, then staff the ship with an entirely new crew.
- Put symptomatic crew members in quarantine. Allow non-symptomatic crew to keep working (respecting social distancing and always wearing face masks). Have the ship disinfected, and remain close to shore in case the crew needs medical attention.
- Put symptomatic crew members in quarantine and ask the non-essential crew to pause work for 14 days. Have the ship disinfected and cleaned.
Monitoring and Discontinuation of Quarantine
If anyone is in quarantine, they should be recording their temperature and monitoring their symptoms. They should also be reporting them to the appropriate medical personnel. Crew not in quarantine should also be taking their temperatures twice daily.
If, after 14 days, the person in quarantine shows no symptoms and has had no exposure to a suspected or confirmed case, they may end their quarantine. Ship operators are responsible for getting medical care to sick and infected persons onboard, including medical transportation to shoreside hospitals. If they have to be hospitalized, crew members need medical certificates proving their recovery from COVID-19 before they can rejoin the ship.
The ECDC mentions that shipping companies and operators have a responsibility to provide documentation to local port authorities concerning their coronavirus plans and cases. If the ship docks and crew members are to disembark (after confirming they don’t have COVID-19), companies should inform crew members of the local restrictions in place.
The latest letter from the IMO says that any documentation related to COVID-19 preparedness plans and quarantine should be available in electronic form, and translated into English if written in another language. The organization recommends that seafarers fill out and carry with them the following documents:
- Evidence of Seafarer Status Document(s)
- Crew Health Self-Declaration Form & Daily Temperature Records
- Employer Letter and Crew Change & Travel Information Sheet
The ship operator should also provide these forms to crew members.
Maintaining the proper standards for quarantine when shipping will help ensure the health and safety of everyone onboard your ship. Remember to check the CDC, ECDC, and IMO protocols on quarantine and COVID-19 regularly, as the situation changes rapidly.
Border Buddy can help move your products and services across borders during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring you follow all necessary health and safety protocols. Give us a call today to see what import and export solutions we can devise for you.