Covid-19 and ships’ crews

March 2020

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Aerial view container ship resized

Appropriate Covid-19 precautions and procedures for crew on board cargo vessels are a prime concern for Members. Although the landscape is rapidly changing we set out below a snapshot of the current situation as it relates to certain P&I issues and available sources of advice.

Steamship Covid-19 webpage
Steamship Mutual has a dedicated area on our web-site, which is updated regularly as more news comes in about Covid-19 issues. The first section of our webpage contains links to articles with advice to shipowners concerning preparations for crew, and what to do if there is a suspected and/or actual case on board. We particularly recommend the ICS Guidance (which is also recommended by the IMO and WHO), and the WHO Guidance itself.

A section on P&I/Charter Party issues contains an article by Steamship’s Rohan Bray about C/P issues members may encounter.

Below that are links to port/country updates as well as a list compiled by the Club based on information supplied by Correspondents and service providers.

General information
Hygiene and cleanliness on board are paramount. Anyone on board should regularly clean their hands using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. When coughing or sneezing, the general consensus is that the mouth and nose should be covered with a flexed elbow or tissue (which should be disposed of immediately). Avoid close contact with others (where practical), particularly if an individual is showing signs of a fever, cough and/or has trouble breathing. If a crew member demonstrates any of these symptoms then they should immediately isolate themselves and medical advice should be sought from a doctor. The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should also be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.

If Covid-19 is suspected on board
Covid-19 is an illness like any other and cover responds in the usual manner. If a crewmember has contracted Covid-19 they will likely be treated and placed in quarantine at the place where they are landed and would only be repatriated once they have recovered, but much will depend on the regime in place at the relevant port. A routine medical repatriation would typically be arranged in conjunction with the local P&I correspondent, and the Clubs handle a number of these cases every year, in many parts of the world. Cover would apply in the usual way, including for substitutions, as per Rule 25(ii)(c).

Depending on the requirements of the authorities at the relevant port and/or the flag state, crew members who are asymptomatic may also be required to undergo quarantine in some form. Whilst each case must be treated on its own facts, if extraordinary expenses were to be incurred as a consequence of an outbreak of infectious disease on board or the vessel was subject to quarantine, the Club’s Quarantine Rule (Rule 25(xii)) might apply. Coverage may extend to expenses such as disinfection, victualling and fuel as set out in the Rule. It will be appreciated, however, that cover would not be available in circumstances where it was known or ought to have been anticipated that the vessel would be subject to quarantine at that port. Deviation expenses solely incurred in order to secure necessary treatment for a sick crewmember would be covered in the usual manner under the Rules (25(ii)(g)).

Unfortunately, we are hearing of a few cases where sick or injured crewmembers (not Covid-19 related) have encountered difficulties at ports. If Members encounter difficulties the Club will of course endeavour to assist by utilising our extensive network of correspondents and medical advisers.

If members have any more specific queries that are not answered above or on our website then please do not hesitate to get in touch with your usual contact at the Club.