As the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) shifts to general community quarantine (GCQ) in certain places, new guidelines have been set up for both smooth operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the personal safety of everyone involved. As per MARINA Advisory No. 2020-29, the general overview of the announcement are as follows:
Guidelines for passenger shipping
For areas under GCQ, operations will resume under strict compliance of certain rules as mandated in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Throughout the whole duration, social distancing will be followed, with a 1-meter distance required between two people.
As for places still under ECQ, operations will remain discontinued and any ships coming from areas under GCQ cannot enter ports subjected to ECQ. In short, active voyages will be strictly limited to those with GCQ in place.
Guidelines for shore personnel
Staff relegated to shore work have to follow a strict set of rules as well as they are the ones exposed to different people from different vessels and even those not coming from a different port, thus, are quite prone to infection.
For starters, social distancing markers shall be placed in key areas where people gather. This is to encourage distance as well as inform both personnel and passengers on where they must be situated once they’re in the premises. There will also be a strict implementation of limiting the number of people in an area at any given time to ensure such distancing measures can be followed. Of course, masks are also a requirement for all people in the area. They will be subject to body temperature checks as well similar to what most public establishments have done so far.
As for cleanliness and disinfecting measures, soap, alcohol, and disinfectant shall be available for use. A footbath will also be situated in entrances and exits so each person is disinfected before they enter and as they leave the facility.
Guidelines for ship personnel
While areas under GCQ will be allowed to resume their passenger shipping work, it’s not without any strict limitations. Even with quarantine rules loosened, staff and passengers in each ship must still be wary to avoid themselves from getting infected.
Much like the rules for those at shore, social distancing will also be in place inside the vessel that both passengers and crew need to follow, distancing marks and all. The vessels themselves can only carry half of its full capacity to make sure these efforts can be implemented with ease. Each person on-board must also wear a mask.
Cleanliness measures are also similar to shore guidelines, with soaps, alcohol, and footbaths in place for ideal disinfection.
Aside from operational procedures, measures need to be undertaken in other aspects as well. For instance, an online method must be enforced so passengers don’t have to break isolation to buy and claim their tickets.
As for health concerns, there must be a health worker involved in the operations (one on-board and one on shore) for facilitating the health checks of each person inside the ships and offices. Should there be possible COVID-19 cases, coordinated and organized reporting is needed for smoother dissemination of information. Once the ship makes it to shore, proper protocol and facilities are required to isolate these individuals and get them the care they need.
All these guidelines are expected to be included by all companies in their Safety Management System (SMS), which are to be evaluated through scheduled audits.
Even with quarantines slowly lifting in some places, all industries, including the ship industry, must remain vigilant to ensure efforts in flattening the curve are not in vain. With countries everywhere preparing for possible second waves of infections, all of us are highly encouraged to do our best to make sure that wave doesn’t come. Our healthcare workers are overwhelmed as it is, so let us help them by not adding to their burden any further.