COVID-19 Precautions Aboard Commercial Ships

COVID-19 Precautions Aboard Commercial Ships

The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has affected all areas of world commerce. The commercial shipping industry saw some of the first victims of the pandemic when a cruise liner was stranded off the coast of Japan In February, 2020 as a health precaution. Since then, commerce has been negatively impacted by the spread of COVID-19, reducing available personnel aboard ships and in ports and slowing down delivery of critical consumer goods. Commercial marine insurance serves to offer coverage against a wide range of operational risks in commercial shipping. Adopting COVID-19 precautions in the wake of the potentially deadly coronavirus supplements these insurance protections, allowing ships and their crews to perform essential functions.

Global COVID Impacts on Shipping

In November 2020, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) issued a report addressing COVID-19’s impact on global shipping. As to be expected, commercial shippers faced grim prospects throughout 2020. Total maritime trade was down over 4% for the year, disrupting supply chains that manufacturers and retailers around the world depend on. During the pandemic, commercial marine insurance was an invaluable risk management tool, helping to protect shipping assets from excessive financial losses.

In most cases, freight rates remained stable even as demand for cargo plummeted. Many shippers cut capacity and controlled overhead costs to manage the new operational challenges. Still, the pandemic ultimately led to severe delays in cargo delivery, congestion in ports, and thousands of illnesses among shipboard and onshore workers. The short-term prospects for global shippers present significant hardships, but industry analysts expect a quick recovery as the pandemic eases around the world.

Keeping Crewmembers Safe: Strategies for Protecting Against COVID-19

International shipping organizations like International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have stepped in to assist shippers with establishing COVID safety guidelines. These guidelines were informed by information distributed by leading infectious disease agencies like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Just as commercial marine insurance protects shipping assets from losses, adhering to infectious disease precautions protects the vital crewmembers aboard commercial ships.

Aboard commercial ships, cargo holds, enclosed spaces, and crew areas do not easily allow for social distancing measures. Close contact between crew members have led to widespread infections aboard ships. To help keep crews safe aboard their vessels, guidelines include:

  • Daily health checks of all personnel, including evaluations and body temperature checks.
  • Personnel responsible for keeping watch over gangways in port should be equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, face shields, disposable gloves, and aprons.
  • PPE should be readily available for all crew members working on the vessel itself or needing to go ashore. PPE can include disinfectant products, disposable coveralls, gloves, hand sanitizer, and facemasks.
  • Wherever possible, business should be conducted in open-air spaces on deck. When this is not possible, temporary office or workspaces should be established away from crew quarters.
  • All personnel boarding the ship from port facilities must be required to sanitize their hands, wear masks, and have their health evaluated before granting onboard access.
  • Minimizing the passage of unauthorized visitors through crew accommodations.
  • Requiring crewmembers to avoid group interaction onboard.
  • Implementing periodic rest breaks and reducing onboard work when ships are in port.
  • Staggering mealtimes to prevent large groups from being in close contact.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces aboard ships, including walkways, railings, computer workstations, and equipment.
  • Avoid sharing portable radios and communication systems whenever possible. Walkie talkies can be placed into disposable bags between uses to reduce the spread of viral particles.
  • Maintaining ventilation systems aboard ships with fresh filters replaced on a regular basis.

For more details and guidelines, visit the ICS online publication entitled “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Ship Operators for the Protection of the Health of Seafarers.” With these guidelines, and with the risk management protection of commercial marine insurance, commercial shippers can continue their essential work in bringing goods from manufacturing and production centers to end users around the globe.

About Merrimac Marine Insurance

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