The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created issues related to the shipboard interface between seafarers and shore-based personnel during port calls. These issues are often related to the ship’s crews and shore-based workers, such as agents, inspectors, pilots, stevedores, surveyors etc., following conflicting procedures to mitigate the risk of infection related to the virus. Differing procedures and requirements are currently being set globally for shore-based workers by national Administrations, local authorities, professional organisations and employing companies compared with those being set by flag States and shipping companies to be followed on board ships by ship’s crews.
The objective of all parties in the ship / shore interface should be to keep everyone as safe as possible at all times, regardless of whether they are seafarers serving onboard a ship or shore-based workers temporarily coming onboard, and not to place anyone at undue risk or in a position they feel is unacceptable.
Requirements and guidance as applicable to individuals can be seen to differ from State to State and company to company and these differences regarding what should and should not be applied with respect to managing risk related to COVID-19 is creating perceptions that some parties are not following appropriate procedures, even though the procedures being followed may be those required by a responsible party. There are differing views globally regarding what risk-based measures are appropriate during the pandemic and therefore different procedures are being implemented relating to interaction, personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing, hygiene and testing.
This guidance aims to address major concerns and expectations of ship’s crews and shorebased personnel through the implementation of practical, risk-based measures to address COVID-19 risks to all personnel involved in the ship/shore interface. IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.6 “Preliminary list of recommendations for Governments and relevant national authorities on the facilitation of maritime trade during the COVID-19 pandemic” of 27 March 2020 contains, inter alia, the following recommendations to Member States on “Measures to ensure health protection in ports” in which “Governments and relevant national authorities are recommended. In order to keep all ship and shore-based personnel as safe as possible, consideration should be given by all parties as to how best to manage risk related to COVID-19.
Appropriate control measures should be established to ensure that risks and impacts are managed to a tolerable level, and proportionate measures are established to reduce, control and manage the risks that Covid-19 poses to all persons. As part of the risk management and control process it is recommended that prior to arrival in port the ship communicates its requirements related to COVID-19 risk management to all the anticipated service providers and port officials expected to attend on board during the port call, which may be coordinated through the ship’s port agent if appropriate. It is further recommended that prior to arrival in port the shore-based service providers and port officials communicate their requirements related to COVID-19 risk management to the ship, again this may be coordinated by the ship’s port agent if appropriate.