IMO Responses to Ebola Outbreak

To protect shippers and seafarers from the Ebola Outbreak, the IMO have reacted to the international emergency declared by the World Health Organization over the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The IMO issued an international circular “3848” calling for a united response from the shipping industry to combat the virus. It calls for ship operators to define “measures to reduce the risk of exposure: if they are likely to have ships trading to and from ports in Ebola-affected States.

The Ebola Virus Disease is classified by WHO as a severe, often fatal illness to humans with a prediction of 1.4 million deaths by January  2015.


Here are parts of the circular issued by IMO:

“In the event that a seafarer, passenger, or other person has stayed in the areas where EVD cases have recently been reported, he or she should seek medical attention at the first sign of illness (fever, headache, achiness, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, rash, red eyes, and in some cases, bleeding). Early treatment can improve prognosis.”

“Any person with an illness consistent with EVD, or any person who has had contact with or is confirmed as having contracted EVD should not be allowed to join a ship or travel internationally unless that travel is part of an appropriate medical evacuation. In any event, all persons are advised to avoid such contacts and routinely practice careful hygiene, like thorough hand-washing.”

The circular goes on to say, “Non-affected countries need to strengthen the capacity to detect and immediately contain new cases, while avoiding measures that will create unnecessary interference with international travel or trade.”

“Member States are advised to urge all stakeholders (companies, managers, crewing agents, etc.) to promulgate information to ensure that seafarers, passengers and others on board ships are provided with accurate and relevant information on the EVD outbreak and on the measures to reduce the risk of exposure if they are likely to be engaged on ships trading to and from ports in EVD-affected States. Persons on board ships sailing in waters where persons of unknown origin may be found or taken on board (e.g. stowaways or persons rescued at sea) should be provided with timely and relevant information related to contact with any such individuals.”

Sub-referenced in the IMO circular is guidance from the World Health Authority – WHO GUIDANCE 4.2.5 ‘Guidance for ships and shipping companies’. The guidance is designed to provide information on how to deal with a situation where ships’ crew encounter an infected person, be it a third party or crew member.

The following precautions are laid out to be applied:
•keep the affected person’s cabin doors closed, if not placed in an isolation room on board;
•provide information about the risk of EVD transmission to persons who will take care of the patient or enter their cabin or isolation room;
•maintain a log listing all people entering the cabin or isolation room, all of whom should be considered contacts unless a diagnostic test is reported as negative;

Moreover, the WHO guidance stipulates that anyone who enters the cabin or isolation room to provide care to the affected person or to clean the cabin wears PPE (personal protective clothing). The types and specification of PPE are stipulated in the guidance.

Watch out for more news regarding this fatal disease and how the shipping industry can contain the virus. For more maritime training and related news, tune in to CTSI.


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