The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued interim guidance aimed at protecting the health of seafarers working on cargo ships and fishing vessels amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
This specific guidance (download here) addresses the unique situation of seafarers, who work in close contact environments and often embark on ships for extended periods of time, generally without a medical doctor on board.
The document provides guidance to shipowners, seafarers, unions and associations, and competent authorities. It includes advice on pre-boarding screening, hand hygiene, physical distancing, and the use of masks, as well as recommendations on how to manage suspected COVID-19 cases on board.
The importance of mental health services and psychological support for seafarers is also covered. The WHO also reminds the Member States that they must ensure that seafarers in need of immediate medical care are given access to their medical facilities onshore.
IMO encourages its Member States and international organizations to disseminate the guidance as widely as possible.
Preventing and managing outbreaks onboard ships is vital not only for the safety and well-being of the crew but also to protect the crew’s ability to safely navigate and operate the ship.
IMO Member States are also invited to make use of the Protocols to Mitigate the Risks of Cases On Board Ships (download here), which have been issued by non-governmental associations in consultative status with the Organization (ICS, INTERTANKO, and IMHA).
The Protocols include tools to help ship operators manage suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 and to ensure that seafarers can embark and disembark safely and efficiently.