What To Do With COVID-19 Cases At Sea?

With the COVID-19 pandemic still going strong and with no signs of stopping anytime soon, the possibility of these cases happening onboard a ship should be taken into consideration. This is especially apparent since the situation with the Diamond Princess cruise ship, with 80 Filipino crewmen infected in that vessel alone. Not only is this needed for all the people onboard to travel safely by boat, but also to reduce possible infections once the ship docks on land and the people embark.

With these, here are the things to take note of when managing COVID-19 cases onboard.

Prevention and control

The first and foremost thing to do when dealing with possible cases inside a ship is prevention and control of the spread. For this to happen, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) lays out several factors that have to be examined thoroughly. The first step is monitoring and orientation in order to inform crew members of the proper steps. Screening devices such as thermal detectors have to be present for possible fevers related to COVID. Hygiene and disinfection, both with personal effects and common areas, must also be followed with personal protective equipment (PPE) provided. This is to lessen the chances of infection.

If a case is eventually detected, measures must be taken for reporting and emergency response. This includes isolating the infected individual immediately, limiting or restricting areas the person has been to for disinfection, and managing the people said person was in close proximity with. When it comes to reporting said case, everything must be detailed, including the crew member’s basic information, onset of symptoms, places traveled to in the past 14 days, etc.

Operations

In response to the needed urgency for the pandemic, the IMO has also announced the protocols that need to be done in Circular Letter No.4204/Add.1. This letter states that all relevant organizations and bodies need to ensure that the necessary movements – such as passenger drop-offs, ship maintenance, and supplies restocking – can still be done with no issues or delays. As the shipping industry is part of the frontline efforts, any mishap can mean inconvenience for the people onboard as well as the ones isolating at home. 

Moreover, if any seafarers need to be repatriated so they can return to their families or get medical treatment (if they’re a COVID-19 patient), then there shouldn’t be any dilly-dallying in getting them off the vessel.

Seafarer safety

Seafarers are the core people of this industry. They contribute largely to trade, the economy, and the daily necessities of the average citizen. Most of all, they are also people who have families to get back to and support. That is why keeping them safe and protected during this pandemic is of utmost importance. As a response to this, in the same Circular Letter No.4204/Add.1, IMO emphasizes the need for countries to cover the medical needs of their sick crew members both while they’re on the vessel and when they arrive on shore. Even with limited medical resources, each country must make sure their citizens, including these seafarers, are accommodated with the healthcare they deserve.

Extensions of certifications

The change in crew is a regular occurrence in the seafaring industry, especially with contracts in place. But with the quarantine locking down the borders of various countries, it would be difficult to do so. Not to mention that with how easily the virus can spread, opening up said borders for crew exchange can be quite dangerous. That’s why as per the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the one month extension of the contracts will be allowed even if it exceeds the maximum service period time. Given the outbreak, emergency protocols like this have to be taken.

The current state of worldwide health has caused all industries to respond in a way that is deemed safe to everyone involved. While the situation has been physically and mentally taxing to frontliners – seafarers included – bodies that govern the industry must implement strict plans of action to ensure that each maritime professional is cared for. As for the professionals themselves, each one of them must practice discipline and do their part in flattening the curve.

Seafarers Repatriated Amid COVID-19

With the COVID-19 pandemic putting various industries worldwide at a standstill, the seafaring industry has also been significantly affected. The presence of the highly contagious virus in several countries around the world has made traveling safely by boat very difficult. There are even cruise ships that have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks while at sea. This is the reason why the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has announced that in the next three weeks, they will be repatriating the seafarers that have been displaced due to this health crisis.

The situation

Over 4,000 cruise ship workers are set to be repatriated amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Ships such as the Costa Magica, Costa Favolosa, and Costa Luminosa have around 1,000 Filipino crew members between them. The first two ships were refused to dock in Florida to avoid spreading the virus through its potentially infected passengers. The latter ship in contrast has docked in Savonna, Italy, with the crew members on their way to be sent back to the Philippines.

But these vessels are just some of the many that have Filipino workers part of their crew, as there are more coming in the next few weeks. These seafarers shall be flown in from the countries their ships are docked at to Manila.

Measures undertaken

As part of the efforts taken, the DFA, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the Department of Tourism (DOT) have been looking for accommodation such as hotels and motels for the repatriated crew members. This is where they will stay so they can fulfill their 14-day quarantine. This is in accordance with Resolution 14 by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

The first batch of Filipino seafarers, nearly 400 in total, arrived last March 28 via chartered flights. They were taken to a hotel located in Pasig City.

These efforts would not have been possible if not for the mentioned government bodies above, as well as the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Transportation (DOTr), and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). Shipping companies also contributed in ensuring the crew are brought back home safely and efficiently.

Still, challenges remain in the process. Teodoro “Teddy” Locsin Jr., Secretary of Foreign Affairs, expressed the difficulties of looking for the proper accommodation for these crew members on his Twitter account. He cited the approval process of both the list of potential accommodations and the rooms as fit for isolation as factors that pose a challenge to these measures.

Overall, such lengths are being taken due to the need to get our fellow Filipinos to safety and making sure they get the best care possible, whether they have COVID-19 or not. More seafarers from these vessels are expected to arrive in the coming weeks for proper procedures and quarantine to flatten the curve of the virus.

 

(INQUIRER.net, BusinessMirror)

Reducing The Risk of nCoV On Ships

With the threat of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus a current and real thing, it’s time for seafaring companies and professionals alike to do their best in reducing the possibility of the virus spreading. We don’t want ourselves or the people who are close to us to get infected after all. Unfortunately, it may seem more difficult for seafarers as they are one of the professions who travel the most. Even traveling to countries not under the travel ban can still be quite risky.

Still, you can prevent the spread of this disease by practicing certain measures to ensure that you and your crewmates are protected. Remember, traveling safely by boat shouldn’t just be protecting yourself from accidents, but also from nCoV and other illnesses in general.

Practice proper hygiene

This is the most basic way to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. Practicing proper hygiene involves washing your hands frequently, cleaning up regularly, and not leaving a mess behind. It also involves not doing unhygienic stuff such as spitting randomly, handling objects with dirty hands, touching your face without sanitizing, etc. Make sure you buy alcohol and sanitizers with 60 – 90% alcohol as this is the most effective in removing harmful germs.

Get the right mask

While the virus itself isn’t airborne, it’s still recommended for possibly infected members of the crew to get this in order to prevent it from spreading. N95 masks and surgical face masks are recommended as they have the protection needed to filter germs. You must also know how to use and dispose of the masks so you can avoid wearing one far longer than its intended duration of use. 

Inform employers of possible infection

As much as we may think that what we’re feeling couldn’t possibly be the virus, it’s better to be safe and sorry. If you feel you’re experiencing what may be symptoms of nCoV, inform your employers about it immediately. That way, they can do the proper protocol needed to alert the authorities and send you for immediate care and testing. The common symptoms are cough, difficulty in breathing, and fever (at least 38 C). If you feel that or more, let everyone know as soon as possible.

Isolate possibly infected crew members

Of course, it would be difficult to isolate crew members who are suspected of the infection. However, efforts still need to be done while the patient and the ship are still at sea. Put them in their living quarters and quarantine them until it’s time to send them to the nearest medical center. At the same time, even the ones who aren’t infected still need to be observed and quarantined to ensure they didn’t catch the virus themselves.

As you can see, the general methods in preventing such an outbreak onboard is pretty much the same as what we do on land, but applied to the maritime setting. We must keep ourselves vigilant in terms of our hygiene and our symptoms to ensure the virus doesn’t spread as much. Aside from this, one must also do their best to boost one’s immune system to combat the virus. As seafarers, you are more prone to it, so take extra caution in everything you do.

December 2019 MARINA Projects

With 2020 just around the corner, MARINA still headlined important projects before the year ended. Part of these initiatives are the projects they recently launched their on December 8, 2019 in Cavite City. These Department of Transportation-led programs aim to spark a change within the government systems. The convenience and comfort of Filipinos are also priorities in the conceptualization and implementation of said plans of action.

Read all about them below.

MARINA Central Office Processing Center

The MARINA Central Office Processing Center (MARINA COPC), as detailed by MARINA OIC VADM Narciso A Vingson Jr. and DOTr Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, is a project launched with the goal of cutting down the wait time for MARINA-related transactions. Thus, after completing their STCW Courses, seafarers can already process all of their required documentation – from registration to licensing with ease. With this move, MARINA aims to improve efficiency and productivity in processing relevant transactions, making the lives of seafarers in the country much easier.

Registration For Recreational Boats

Through MARINA Memorandum Circular 2019-DS-01, registering boats used for recreation now takes just three days maximum. With this in place, boat operators can take part in the recreational side of the ship industry, leading to a boom in maritime tourism in the Philippines. Aside from these economic benefits, it also serves as a way to improve how governing bodies monitor our waters in case of any boats used for illegal activities.

Relaunch of the Cavite-Manila Ferry Service

Long travel times have always been an issue among commuters. This is especially true for those who live in the furthest parts of Cavite, with the public having to suffer three hours of commuting to Manila and Pasay. With MARINA’s revival of the Cavite-Manila Ferry Service, traveling safely by boat to these areas and back will now just take one hour. As additional good news, Tugade also announced the special Christmas offer of free rides until January 9, 2020 for trips from the Cavite City Port Terminal to Pasay and Manila, and vice versa. Passengers riding the MV Island Sabtang can also enjoy free rides until January 31, 2020.

All of these projects spell good news for the future of the maritime industry in the Philippines for the next decade, especially with the 10-Year Maritime Industry Development Plan (MIDP) in place.  Through the efforts of both MARINA and professionals, we can expect even more initiatives such as these ones for the betterment of the maritime field, its key players who are the backbone of the industry, and the general Filipino public.

(MARINA)

Modernization of Ships To Be Led By MARINA

As part of the organization’s 10-year Maritime Industry Development Plan (MIDP), the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) shall lead the initiative of modernizing ships in the Philippines for safer and more secure transportation at sea. This plan, as spearheaded by Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, will serve as a call for operators to make use of faster, more modern ships such as Roll-On / Roll-Off (RoRo) ships.

Part of the efforts to be done include:

  • Spreading knowledge of the domestic modernization ship program,
  • Reviewing ship designs based on safety standards,
  • Ensuring lifesaving gear and equipment is available at all times so all people aboard can travel safely by boat,
  • Requiring comprehensive insurance for ship passengers,
  • Prohibiting those who don’t comply from applying for renewal of Certificates of Public Convenience (CPCs), and
  • Disallowing registration of both old and new wooden-hulled ships.

Aside from this, MARINA is also planning on establishing an electronic ticketing system before the year ends with the help of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).

All these initiatives driven by MARINA ring true to the goal of improving aspects of the local maritime industry – including transportation by sea – so we can keep up with the competition in the international scene.

For this reason, it’s important for professionals from all levels in the industry – from maritime trainees to heads of shipping companies – to be aware and to follow modernization programs such as this one. That way, the high standards in which our workers and operations are held can be maintained and even exceeded as we move towards becoming a better and more advanced maritime nation.

(MARINA)