[FAQ] COVID19 Best Practice Guide for Seafarers in Ports



As the COVID19 Pandemic wreaks havoc all over the globe, here are some best practices which can save us, specially the shipping industry. Lets take a look at the points as presented by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD.

What is it?

Based on several documents received from ports that are part of the UNCTAD TrainForTrade Network, the following measures have been implemented/observed and could serve as generic guidelines:

  • Constantly promote and enforce preventive hygiene measures (handwashing)
  • Limit physical interaction between onboard and onshore staff.
  • Ship crew should communicate with quayside staff by radio or telephone
  • Encourage/restrict ship crew to stay onboard.
  • Establish a clear protocol if disembarkation is necessary (check body temperature, involve immigration department, track movements and potential human contacts)
  • Respect physical distancing rules – stay 2 metres apart
  • Increase the use of digital documentation to limit human contact to the minimum
  • Provide adequate and sufficient protective equipment to the staff (face masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, glasses)
  • Augment the sanitation of surfaces that come in contact with hands
  • Establish a point of control in the perimeter of the port area to monitor temperature and related symptoms (automated temperature screening) and equip it with anti-bacterial solutions and sanitizers
  • Establish a waste disposal policy for “suspicious” cases
  • Fumigate and disinfect all passenger terminals/areas
  • Disinfect and monitor cargo
  • Have a passenger information system for easy contact tracing and an isolated holding and testing area for COVID-19 symptomatic port users
  • Institute a protocol for disembarking passengers/crew requiring immediate medical care in coordination with the national health authority
  • Identify decontamination areas in the port buildings

Seafarers’ Health

Under the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Maritime Labour Convention of 2006, flag States must ensure that all seafarers on ships flying their flag are covered by adequate measures for the protection of their health and that they have access to prompt and adequate medical care whilst working onboard. The Convention also requires port States to ensure that seafarers on board ships in their territory who are in need of immediate medical care are given access to medical facilities onshore.


It is crucial to keep the country’s borders open for all forms of freight transport, in particular ports considered to be essential national assets. Governments need to ensure that health measures are implemented in ways that minimize unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade; in particular, by respecting the requirements of “free pratique” for ships under the International Health Regulations (IHR). The principles of avoiding unnecessary restrictions or delay in port entry for ships, persons and property on board are also embodied in articles I and V and section 6 of the annex of the Convention of the Facilitation of Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention). This is underscored by the International Labor Organisation (ILO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).


The following section presents an example of a crisis protocol that can be used as a guide on actions that should be implemented in relation to strictly defined crisis levels.

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Source: UNCTAD


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