Updated 7 April 2020
The ongoing outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that was first detected in Hubei Province, China in December 2019 has now spread across all continents, except Antarctica. The number of confirmed cases continue to rise with increasing pace and the World Health Organization (WHO) considers the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 at a global level to be very high.
These are challenging times, for the maritime industry and the society at large. Seafarers in international trade are constantly facing the risk of being infected by COVID-19 and measures implemented by some countries to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 bring serious operational consequences for ships and crews.
We would like to emphasise that Gard is guided by the views and recommendations issued by the WHO, IMO, flag states, and other expert agencies in respect of this outbreak. As the situation evolves, so will recommendations and measures to prevent and reduce spread of the infection and we advise Members and clients to remain vigilant.
Below we have provided links to some relevant websites and guidelines that may assist ship operators, masters and crews to stay alert and prepare and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.
For the latest official information and advice related to the COVID-19 outbreak, we recommend consulting the following organizations’ websites dedicated to COVID-19:
We strongly recommend that ship operators and masters, well in advance of arriving at any port, seek guidance from local port authorities and ships’ agents on restrictions and other preventive measures currently in effect. However, the following sources of information may be useful when assessing the situation:
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has established a website dedicated to COVID-19 with advice for IMO Member States, seafarers and shipping: Coronavirus pandemic.
As Governments around the world are implementing policies and measures to protect public health and address COVID-19, it is important that these are developed without the introduction of obstacles to ship and port operations, including the movement of seafarers and marine personnel. On 27 March 2020, the IMO circulated a Preliminary list of recommendations for Governments and relevant national authorities on the facilitation of maritime trade during the COVID-19 pandemic (Circular Letter No.4204/Add.6) addressing:
It is hoped that these recommendations, as fully supported by the International Group of P&I Clubs, assist Governments and their relevant national authorities to take a pragmatic and practical approach to the facilitation of shipping and port operations at this difficult time.
Ship operators and masters in process of establishing onboard contingency procedures are also advised to consult the following guidelines:
It is very important ensure crew members are aware of the risks associated with COVID-19, such as how the virus can be spread and its early symptoms, precautions to be taken, as well as the myths surrounding the virus. For this, we recommend consulting the WHO’s websites:
To support medical officers onboard, Gard has financially sponsored the development of a simple online tool to aid the assessment and management of COVID-19 cases onboard ship. The webpage is aimed at officers who are responsible for medical treatment on board ships and mobile offshore units. Its aim is to help them assess and treat persons who might have Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
A number of government agencies, industry stakeholders and medical experts have now published guidelines providing support to operators and crews on how to manage suspect COVID-19 cases onboard ships. In this article we summarise some their key recommendations.
We list the key issues as well as provide advice which may assist ship operators, masters and crew to stay alert, strengthen self-protection and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Crises like the COVID-19 pandemic often lead malicious cyber actors to take advantage through various malicious methods. In this article we discuss how to incorporate measures that deal with cyber risks into ships’ safety management systems (SMS) and undertake crew awareness training.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the maritime industry in previously unthinkable ways and some owners and operators may be forced to consider placing vessels in lay-up. As far as insurance is concerned, lay-up constitutes an alteration of risk, and owners are advised to notify us early in the planning of an upcoming lay-up period for a vessel.
One of the frequent questions coming to Gard Defence Lawyers is whether the COVID-19 pandemic falls within the various charterparty force majeure clauses. We are grateful to Brian Perrott, partner with HFW, and his colleagues for sharing their views.
In this article we try to identify some of the questions which are likely to arise and address them from the point of view of the shipowner in his relations with his charterer.
In an effort to assist in the maritime industry, in particular to protect seafarers and visitors onboard ships, BIMCO is providing free posters in black and white to be printed and used onboard at the following suggested locations:
We are grateful to BIMCO for their kind permission to reproduce these posters.