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Global shipping body addresses the health concerns of seafarers during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Dry Bulk,

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has issued updated health guidance for the global shipping industry to ensure ship operators and crew can safely deal with seafarers struggling with medical conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Alarming reports indicate that in some cases, seafarers are being denied medical attention by port authorities. Many cases of seafarers suffering non-COVID related medical conditions being refused entry to port or denied medical evacuation for over 4 days are being reported. Reminding governments of their obligations to provide medical care for seafarers, ICS will address a virtual meeting of healthcare professionals, organised by the World Health Organization, International Maritime Organization and International Labor Organization, where the latest guidance for seafarers will be discussed.

Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping said: “This guidance should give confidence to national governments that crew changes can and must be carried out. Especially when there are critically ill crew members on board.

“We’re receiving alarming reports of seafarers who are suffering from serious medical injury such as a stroke, be denied medical evacuation for over 4 days. This is simply not acceptable.”

The 48-page document builds on the previous guidance issued in March, providing comprehensive recommendations on:

  • Safe port entry.
  • Shipboard measures to address risks associated with COVID-19.
  • Managing an outbreak of COVID-19 on board ships.
  • Managing other medical issues during COVID-19, including medical assistance to seafarers in ports.

Since the outbreak of the virus, COVID-19 related restrictions and the drastic reduction of air traffic have prevented over 200 000 seafarers from routine changeovers. Spending an extended period onboard, these seafarers are at risk from adverse health effects, including fatigue and mental health issues.

The new guidance should serve as a reassurance to governments and port authorities that it is fully possible to conduct crew changes in a safe and effective manner. Urgent action is now required to ensure that no other seafarers are subjected to prolonged period without medical assistance if they need it.

Prominent international organisations consulted in the production of the guidance include:

  • World Health Organization (WHO).
  • International Maritime Organization (IMO).
  • International Labour Organization (ILO).
  • International Maritime Health Association (IMHA).
  • European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The full guidance will be presented at a virtual meeting held in partnership with the WHO and other international bodies including the IMO and ILO. This will be delivered to member states national health ministries and global port authorities, ensuring they have the information they need.

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