With the pandemic creating havoc in everyone’s life, it has become absolutely crucial to make a proper covid19 management plan especially onboard ships. Keeping this in mind, the European Commission released a detailed ship management guidance.
Today we are going to look at it to gain a thorough insight.
The first step is for cruise companies to assess all identified risks to their ships, crew, passengers and other persons in relation to COVID-19 and to establish appropriate safeguards. It is recommended that this is developed as a COVID-19 Company and Ship Management Plan.
The company should assess all health risks to passengers in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, its ships, crews, passengers and the communities visited, and establish appropriate safeguards to reduce the risk to the utmost. This assessment should be properly documented.
In establishing safeguards or implementing mitigating measures in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, available codes, guidelines and standards regarding COVID-19 should be taken into consideration.
This includes in particular, relevant Flag State, International Maritime Organization (IMO), World Health Organization (WHO) and other EU COVID-19 related documents, in particular guidance from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)and EU Healthy Gateways, as found relevant and applicable.
The measures taken should give special consideration to persons with special needs.
The following points provide guidance to be considered when developing a COVID-19 Company and Ship Management Plan, also referred to as the “Plan”.
Responsibilities in relation to COVID-19 matters
Responsibilities of the company/ship and of relevant personnel for any duty in relation to COVID-19 matters should be defined in the Plan.
It is recommended that each company nominates overall coordinator(s) for this Plan and contact person(s) responsible for dealing with COVID-19 matters both on board and ashore. These persons should be responsible for the implementation of the Plan and act as a contact point for the relevant authorities.
Resources and personnel needed
The company should ensure that adequate resources are available to implement all aspects of the Plan, including appropriate and sufficient medical staff and facilities.
The company should define, implement and continuously monitor the training and training requirements for all personnel included in the Plan.
The company should establish procedures to ensure that new crew members and crew transferred to new assignments related to the Plan are given specific training to familiarise them with their duties prior to taking up functions.
The company should establish and maintain procedures for identifying any training needs which may be required in the implementation of the Plan and ensure that such training is provided for all crew concerned. This should include training of all crew members on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the hygiene measures in place. Crew who are required, due to the nature of their work, to have a high level of interaction with others (e.g. for cleaning, security checks, etc) should receive specific guidance and training. The company should ensure that crew undertaking additional responsibilities as a result of the Plan are given adequate time in which to perform their additional tasks without detriment to their regular tasks or rest periods since this may impact on the general safety of the ship.
The company should establish procedures to ensure that the relevant information on the Plan is provided to the crew in their own language and/or the working language of the ship.
The company should ensure that the crew is able to communicate effectively in the execution of their duties related to the Plan.
Review of shipboard operations
The specific shipboard operations related to COVID-19 should be included in the Plan. Accordingly, the company should review its procedures, plans and instructions, including checklists as appropriate, for all shipboard
operations that may bear a risk of or be impacted by a COVID-19 infection, with a view to reducing risk as reasonably practical.
It is advised to use as a reference the documents listed in section 4.1 above (reference documents).
- It is important that passengers and crew comply with the measures in place and that there is an enforcement protocol onboard the ship.
- Considering the prolonged stay of passengers and crew members on board, the company should assess the maximum number of passengers that can be carried on board so as to be able to implement all the required measures effectively (e.g. safe use of common spaces, etc.) and to review that number regularly.
- As a matter of principle, the same level of protection should be provided to all persons on board, regardless of whether they are passengers, crew members or visitors.
- The points below are a non-exhaustive list of subjects that should be considered when including the shipboard operations in the Plan.
Information and communication
It is recommended that companies review the occasions and places where relevant information should be provided, from pre-boarding to disembarkation. The way in which the information is communicated should also be reviewed and preferably be in a digital format.
It is recommended that the information should cover aspects related to the prevention measures adopted, the health screening processes in place and protocols related to repatriation and disembarkation in case of an
Each space on board should be considered in terms of the information to be displayed, including for example, details on physical distancing, maximum capacity and the PPE required.
The information provided should also include the measures to be applied when communities are being visited.
It is recommended that companies establish a minimum physical distance to be respected considering the adviceand instructions from ECDC, flag and port administrations. In doing so, a precautionary approach should be taken.
The Plan should consider all expected situations/events where queues or contact amongst persons could occur and should also contain appropriate measures that will be implemented to ensure that the physical distance is
maintained, and overcrowding is prevented or at least reduced.
In this regard, it is important to maintain consistency in the physical distance recommendations in the different areas of the ship. The use of floor markings indicating the recommended physical distance could help passengers and to maintain physical distance. Wherever staff members interact with passengers at fixed locations, protective barriers could be considered to facilitate safe interaction. If possible, removing or relocating furniture items can decrease over-crowding.
Companies should consider, for each space or category of spaces, as well as for the whole ship, whether the maximum capacity of persons should be reviewed to ensure that the applicable physical distance can be
In case different standards are used by the port of call and the ship (based on Flag State requirements) it is recommended that a single distance is agreed in the arrangement between the port and the ship (flag).
When physical distance cannot be guaranteed, the use of a face mask is recommended as a means of source control to reduce droplet spreading.
The frequent and meticulous hand hygiene by washing with water and soap or by using an alcohol-based hand-rub solution can contribute to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Easy access to hand washing facilities or alcohol-based hand rub solutions, and health promotion material (e.g. posters, videos, etc.) that promote the importance of hand hygiene and explain how to perform effective hand
hygiene should be available in different areas of the ship. The plan should include the availability of alcohol-based hand disinfectant dispensers, or similar, in the spaces where persons are expected to be present, e.g., entrances in general, security screening areas, restaurants, lifts, corridors, cabins, sanitary spaces, working spaces, changing rooms etc. and to promote their use.
Health screening protocols should be established based on the reference documents, such as the pre-embarkation COVID-19 questionnaire included in Annex 1 of the Annex in IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.3 (2 March 2020)-
Operational considerations for managing COVID-19 cases/outbreak on board ships.
- The company should closely monitor the latest information on effective health screening methods provided by institutions, such as the European Commission, the Flag State, the national authorities in the countries to be visited, the ECDC, IMO and WHO.
- Health screening protocols should be non-discriminatory.
- Accordingly, it is recommended that companies review the occasions and places where health screening should be carried out, from the pre-boarding area to disembarkation, including re-embarkation following an excursion, tour, visit, etc.
- Special consideration should be given to the early identification of persons falling within a risk group and the associated measures to be taken in such cases.
- Finally, it is recommended that a health monitoring system is established on board and the associated reporting and logging of health-related issues and measures is implemented.
Use of personal protective equipment
The type of and the occasions when PPE should be used has to be considered in the Plan based on the reference documents. Accordingly, it is recommended that companies review the occasions and places where the use of PPE is needed, for the protection of both crew and passengers, and define the appropriate type and certification where relevant.
The PPE to be used in the passenger terminal should be coordinated with the relevant Port State authority/entity.
It is recommended that companies define what is a sufficient stock of PPE and ensure that it is carried on board, based on their risk assessment, the Plan (including the contingency part), the duration of the voyage and the
number of persons on board.
Cleaning and disinfection
Companies should review their policy about cleaning and disinfection based on the reference documents. It is recommended that the plan defines for each space of the ship, or space category, the frequency of cleaning and disinfection and the appropriate products and techniques to be used based on its intended use, occupation rate, surface material, furniture, etc.
Special consideration should be given to those spaces, objects and furniture, etc. that can be used/touched by several persons, e.g., public sanitary spaces.
The number of persons dedicated to cleaning and disinfection should be carefully considered based on these factors, as well as their resting times and the increased frequency of cleaning and disinfection. The protection of these crew members should be given special attention, e.g. by specific training and by using the correct PPE.
It is recommended that companies consider the stock of cleaning and disinfection products needed to be carried onboard based on the review made.
Persons going ashore and re-embarking
It is recommended that the Plan gives special consideration to the strategy and measures to be implemented for persons going ashore and intending to re-embark. Both crew and passengers should be considered.
The cruise company should be in contact with the local public health authorities in the relevant ports to obtain up-to-date information on the level of transmission risk and on what local measures are in place and to communicate this to all persons (passengers and crew) disembarking.
Spaces with special consideration
It is recommended that the Plan considers spaces where some of the measures could be more difficult to implement, such as physical distance, or which require special attention, such as the galley. For those spaces, the Plan should establish, where relevant, tailor-made or alternative measures, e.g., additional PPE, to ensure that the risk of transmission is minimised. These considerations may include the (temporary) closing of spaces if the preventive measures in place are found to be either not feasible or insufficient.
It is recommended that the company reviews the existing safety-related emergency procedures and related drills in view of the Plan. For example, the procedure to carry out a passenger evacuation drill could be subject to review to ensure that the physical distance is kept. Where relevant, safe manning levels should be revaluated for carrying out the reviewed emergency procedures.
Waste from persons with COVID-19 can be treated as regular waste.
Further guidance is contained in ECDC guidance ‘Disinfection of environments in healthcare and non-healthcare settings potentially contaminated with SARS-CoV-2’ included in the reference documents.
Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems (HVAC)
The Plan should consider special measures related to the potential infection through heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems27. Regarding the Heating, Ventilation and Air conditioning (HVAC) system, it is recommended that the cruise ship company consults with the manufacturers of the HVAC systems onboard regarding proper maintenance and applying COVID-19 related revisions if needed.
These elements may include the frequency of cleaning of HVAC system parts and changing or replacing filters where appropriate to minimise the potential risk of contributing to the spread of small droplets SARS-CoV-2 and increasing the number of air exchanges per hour reducing the risk of transmission in closed spaces.
This may be achieved by natural or mechanical ventilation, depending on the setting. Direct air flow should best be diverted away from cruise ship passengers or staff to avoid potential pathogen dispersion from asymptomatic persons.
There is currently no scientific evidence that airborne SARS-CoV-2 would be effectively inactivated by means of electrostatic air purifiers.
The application of the above guidance could be achieved based on information provided by the manufacturer or, if not available, to seek advice from the manufacturer. All COVID-19 related revisions should be performed in accordance with national and local regulations (e.g. health and safety regulations, technical recommendations of respective national or supranational associations) and be appropriate to local conditions.
Handling of visitors, pilot, etc.
The Plan should consider the occasions where visitors, such as inspectors, pilots or supply contractors, are embarking or having contact with the crew and/or passengers, which should be reduced to a minimum.
The reference document IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.16 on ensuring good communications for a safe shipboard interface between ship and shore-based personnel includes recommendations on this point.
Response to a COVID-19 outbreak
COVID-19 response elements to be considered
- Before starting a voyage, cruise ship operators should ensure, with the ports of call along the route, that, if needed, they can make arrangements for passengers and crew members to receive medical treatment and that repatriations and crew changes can be organised.
- In the event that a possible, probable or confirmed case of COVID-19 is identified on board (see ECDC annex for case definitions), the ship should be diverted to the nearest port where testing for SARS-CoV-2 can take place and where local public health authorities can be consulted to further manage the situation including the provision of specialist care, and where necessary, carrying out contact tracing.
- The Company should establish procedures to respond to a potential COVID-19 outbreak32 and establish programmes for drills and exercises to prepare for such an outbreak.
- It is recommended that the response measures33 should include at least a description of the following:
■ Definition of roles, duties and tasks of the crew in case of an outbreak (including medical services, room service, laundry, housekeeping, etc.);
An outbreak of COVID-19 in a cruise ship setting can be defined as a situation where there is at least one confirmed case COVID-19.■ An isolation plan including the identification of designated spaces for isolation of possible, probable or confirmed passengers or crew with COVID-19 until disembarkation and transfer to a health care facility,
including communicating to the crew their entitlement to paid sick leave in case of infection or quarantine;
■ Managing communications between departments (for example, medical, housekeeping, laundry, room service) about persons in isolation or quarantine;
■ The public health and clinical management of possible and probable infections while these persons remain onboard;
■ Relevant information on spaces suitable for isolation, including their identification, the persons authorised to enter, disinfection areas, the designation of persons to be accommodated in this area in case of an outbreak, medical facilities, ventilation and capacity;
■ Procedures to collect Passenger/ Crew Locator Forms34;
■ Definition of high-risk (close by) exposure and low-risk exposure contacts and how to contact persons with possible infection and how persons with possible infection should be (see also ECDC Annex);
■ The measures taken with regard to infected persons on board (including isolation, food service and utensils, laundry and waste management);
■ Medical resources35 needed, such as personnel (including qualifications), equipment (including certification), analytical equipment, medicines36 and supplies;
■ Testing capabilities;
■ Cleaning and disinfecting procedures for potentially contaminated areas including isolation cabins or areas;
■ Management of waste that is contaminated or suspected of being contaminated;
■ Communication with relevant public health and port authorities regarding possible or probable cases of infection;
■ Procedures for disembarking infected persons (medical evacuations);
■ Procedures for safe-handling of bodies of deceased persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-1937;
■ Procedure, in a worst-case scenario, for putting the ship in quarantine and termination of the voyage.
Training and drills for COVID-19 outbreak response
The crew should be provided with the necessary training to perform their response duties. This should include guidance on how to recognise COVID-19 symptoms and the procedures to be followed in case of an outbreak. The crew should acquaint themselves with their specific roles and responsibilities prior to taking up their duties.
In particular, all persons responsible for entering the areas where the possible, probable or confirmed cases are kept in isolation should be trained in terms of following all preventive measures.
Drills should be organised on board of the ship on a regular basis and recorded in the relevant logbook.
Reports and Analysis
Procedures should be adopted for reporting non-conformities, accidents, and hazardous situations concerning COVID-19 related matters.
This reporting should include possible, probable or confirmed COVID-19 cases, failures/shortcomings in implementing the Plan and any other hazardous situation in relation to COVID-19 risks.
All non-conformities, accidents, and hazardous situations in COVID-19 related matters should be reported to the company, investigated and analysed with the objective of improving the efficiency of the Plan and to ensure the implementation of any corrective action, which should be no later than the start of the next cruise by the ship and across the company’s cruise ship fleet.
The Plan should include a maintenance programme with appropriate actions to ensure a regular review of the relevant COVID-19 related equipment and its proper functioning. The maintenance programme should also consider critical equipment that may require regular testing and consider the availability of stand-by (medical) equipment.
Checks and maintenance of the equipment should be recorded.
All the activities related to the execution of the Plan should be appropriately recorded as evidence of its implementation.
Company verification, review and evaluation
The Plan should be subject to regular review and internal company auditing based on a risk assessment analysis.
The following documents are of particular relevance:
− IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.14 – Coronavirus (COVID-19) – ‘Recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic;
− IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.16– Coronavirus (COVID 19) – COVID-19 related guidelines for ensuring a safe shipboard interface between ship and shore-based personnel’
It is recommended that the COVID-19 Company and Ship Management Plan, with as a minimum the elements contained as indicated above, is independently verified by a third party, in such a way that it offers reassurances to both the Flag State and the Port States. This could be done by using existing safety management standards in shipping.
There are other possibilities as well, such as audit/certification by classification societies of company standards implemented on board cruise ships. It should be noted that requesting third party verification is a
prerogative of the Flag State.
Certification and Qualifications
Due to the specific nature of COVID-19 related issues, special consideration should be given to the specific qualifications required to perform a verification to confirm that appropriate safeguards in relation to COVID-19 risks have been implemented.
It is recommended that the verification team consists of external and independent qualified and certified maritime auditors, familiar with cruise ship management, and health care professional(s) who are able to assist in the professional judgement of the measures adopted.
Additionally, all verifiers should have been specifically trained on COVID-19 related matters.
Protection of communities visited by the ship
Crew, passengers, and residents of the visited ports should be protected during their interactions. To this end, information should be provided to the disembarking passengers about the local measures required at the visiting ports.
Cruise operators should communicate with the Port State to ensure that the appropriate measures are implemented to avoid overcrowding and maintain appropriate physical distancing while passengers or crew
disembark and re-board the ship.
Cruise operators should also ensure that any excursion provider, tour operator, and external service providers offer at least the same level of protection as onboard the ship, related to physical distancing measures, the use of PPE, and cleaning and disinfection protocols, while also following local health regulations.
Any external provider who interacts with passengers such as tour guides should follow relevant cruise line protocols. If tenders or other means of transport are used to move passengers, physical distancing measures and protocols for their frequent cleaning and disinfection should be implemented in line with the procedures performed on board.
If tendering services are offered by local companies, local health regulations need to be applied. In those cases, it should be checked whether these measures are equivalent of those taken on board the cruise ship.
Cleaning and disinfection of any means of transport used, including tenders should be conducted between each use.
Crew and passengers should be informed before the ship’s arrival in each port of call about the measures mentioned above.
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