[Answer] How To COVID Safely Manage Ships at Ports?


As the covid19 pandemic disrupts life and work, it has become of paramount importance to develop a covid safety operational plan between ships at ports. Keeping that in mind, the European Maritime Safety Agency has given a detailed guideline which we are highlighting here.

What Does The Agency Say?

It is highly recommended that ports and terminals have their own COVID-19 Port Management Plan, detailing the key processes and key personnel dealing with the implementation of COVID-19 mitigation measures. The contents of such a plan should be similar to the cruise ship’s COVID-19 Company and Ship Management Plan regarding
those issues which are also applicable onshore.

In developing this Plan, it is essential that different authorities cooperate to ensure that all the perspectives are covered.

Member State Multi-disciplinary Teams and Contact Points

To restart operations of cruise ships it is recommended that different authorities within a Member State work together in close cooperation, namely:

  1.  Health authorities, in charge of public health and including occupational health and safety authorities;
  2. Port State authorities, dealing mainly with the implementation of international legislation on the ships berthing in its ports, from the safety, security and environmental point of view and, in some instances, with other duties, like port reception facilities;
  3. Port authorities/terminals, dealing with all the logistics related to port operations, both for cargo and passengers;
  4. For contingency planning purposes: (if applicable) transport/airport, civil protection, home affairs and immigration authorities.

The way in which a COVID-19 Port Management Plan is implemented will differ widely in each Member State. For example, in some States, all the tasks might be concentrated in one authority while for others they can be distributed amongst different authorities.

Irrespective of this, Member States are recommended to create multi-disciplinary teams covering all elements of this port plan to facilitate the coordination and communication with the cruise companies intending to visit their ports.

For ease of reference, in this Guidance, the Member States authorities will be denominated “Port State”, but this term should be understood as the conjunction of the different authorities: Health, Port State and Port Authorities, including terminal operators where applicable.

It is recommended that each Port State, if not already the case, establishes and publishes contact points which can be used by cruise companies for direct communication with regard to the re-starting of operations in that State.

Ideally, there should be a single contact point per Port State who could internally coordinate all the national procedures. Where this is not possible, the contacts should be provided with a brief description of the responsibilities that each contact has.

COVID-19 Port Management Plan

Port States have in most cases already developed plans on how to deal with maritime traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For those States that already have such a plan, it is recommended, however, to review it to ensure that it covers all the elements necessary to safely restart cruise ship operations in their ports.

It is also recommended that this Plan is agreed and shared amongst the different authorities involved (health, Port State and port authority/terminal operator) so that all perspectives are covered. It is also advised to share it with the individual port authorities which could potentially receive cruise ships, so that it could be adapted to local

Such plans should also be made available in advance to visiting cruise ships. This COVID-19 Port Management Plan, when dealing with cruise ships, is recommended to include at least the following elements:

Duties and authorities

The authorities involved in the implementation of the plan should be identified as well as the duties and responsibilities of each of them.

As indicated above, it is recommended that a single contact point is defined to communicate with the cruise company and the ship for COVID-19 matters. This contact point could then coordinate with the other authorities.

It would be useful to have a 24/7 contact point available for emergencies.

Minimum conditions to receive cruise ships

Measures taken on board the cruise ship are likely part of the conditions to receive a cruise ship. These conditions may include, e.g., the implementation of this Guidance on board the ship, the number of passengers allowed on board or any other relevant consideration.

In addition, the conditions under which a cruise ship call could be cancelled, e.g., a COVID-19 outbreak in the port. If the cancellation concerns the actual conditions on board the
ship, then the Port State should where possible propose alternative arrangements or mitigating measures before cancelling the call.

Passenger Terminal Arrangements


This part should include all the embarkation arrangements both for crew and passengers. Different aspects should be covered, such as (advance) information and communication, physical distancing, PPE, cleaning and disinfections, health screening, security screening, etc.

The organisation and measures for re-embarkation of persons on board should also be covered. Measures should cover both people and the handling of luggage.


This part should include all the disembarkation arrangements both for crew and passengers. Different aspects should be tackled, such as information and communication, physical distancing, PPE, cleaning and disinfection, health screening, security screening, etc. In addition, the conditions to allow disembarkation of persons who will return on board should be considered. Special consideration should be given to persons identified as having been exposed to a possible, probable or confirmed COVID-19 case.

Persons/entities authorised to visit the ship and protection measures

The persons/entities authorised to visit the ship, e.g., pilots, Port State Control (PSC) inspectors, health inspectors and suppliers should be defined as well as the protection measures for them to go onboard the ship.

Contingency In Case Of COVID-19 Outbreak

This part of the Plan should include the measures to be taken in case an outbreak of COVID-19 takes place on board a ship using the port/terminal facilities4.

The following points are suggested to be addressed:

  •  Testing arrangements for possible and probable cases.
  • Capacity of hospitals in the vicinity, including regional or national resources if needed, to accept persons infected with COVID-19;
  • Procedures for disembarking possible, probable, confirmed cases of COVID-19 and contact persons for these cases;
  • Health assurance communication as part of clearance;
  • Protection of local communities;
  • Procedures for repatriation;
  • Where appropriate, alternative port(s) should be used with more adequate capacities to deal with an outbreak;
  • Contact tracing.

If a cruise ship is found to have many confirmed cases of COVID-19 on board and it would be advisable to put the ship in quarantine, a suitable location should be identified where the ship can receive medical and other supplies.

Port Authorisation

Based on the points above, it is likely that each port would have to implement different measures adapted to its local circumstances. This part of the plan should establish the procedures to approve such local plans where appropriate.

Authorisation To Receive A Cruise Ship

The procedure to authorise the visit of a cruise ship should be described. This part should consider how cruise companies should apply to call at a certain port, if necessary, the documentation required, the preliminary verification of the COVID-19 Company and Ship Management Plan and the type of authorisation granted, including possible conditions.

Other Considerations

The COVID-19 Port Plan should also include the health and sanitary measures to be applied when stores are being supplied to cruise ships and when they make use of any port service (e.g. port towage, bunkering).

In addition, the waste reception and handling plan should consider the potential reception and treatment of COVID19 related waste from visiting ships.

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Source: European Maritime Safety Agency


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