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Please see our Insight of 7 March 2017 for the latest position

Updated 3 October 2016

In response to a widening geographical spread of the Zika virus to countries such as United States and Singapore, Chinese quarantine authorities have clarified what is an actual port of call, and what would be required if a vessel has made calls at Zika affected ports in United States or Singapore.

Since the last update of our Gard Alert “Zika virus – China port inspection requirements” on 7 April 2015, further countries have been affected by the Zika virus.

Singapore

On 1 September 2016, following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) listing of Singapore as a country reporting mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission, Chinese authorities began to require mosquito eradication for all shipments to China originating in Singapore.

Seagoing vessels sailing from Singapore to China must obtain a mosquito eradication certificate (MEC) before calling Chinese ports.

According to Gard’s correspondents, Huatai Insurance Agency & Consultant Service Ltd., the Chinese Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau (CIQ) has verbally advised that it would not be considered an actual port of call if the vessel calls at Singapore only for bunkering, without crew embarkation/disembarkation or cargo loading/discharging operations.

If the vessel’s previous port of call before bunkering at Singapore, is not in a Zika affected area, an MEC is not be required.

However, if mosquitos are found on board during the onboard quarantine inspection upon arrival at a Chinese port, then regardless of whether the ship has obtained an MEC or not, CIQ may order that the vessel carry out mosquito eradication measures onboard.

See our correspondents’ circular No.:PNI 1609 of 9 September 2016 for additional details.

United States

On 2 August 2016, following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) listing of the United States as a country reporting mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission, Chinese authorities began to require mosquito eradication for shipments to China originating in the US.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) issued a circular on “China’s Zika disinsection requirements for US exports” on 2 September 2016, informing US exporters of USDA’s understanding of China’s policies covering shipments from Zika-affected countries.

The CIQ requirements covering shipments of cargo from the United States is based on a risk-assessment performed by CIQ, using data supplied by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CIQ experts have determined that due to the low risk of Zika transmission through the shipments of cargo, vessels originating from the United States, other than the state of Florida, do not require a eradication certificate.

However, if during the course of routine sampling and inspection, adult mosquitoes, eggs, larva or infected cases are found, the vessel and its contents will be subject to the full Zika requirements, as outlined in USDA circular.

 

Zika virus global situation report

According to the World Health Organization’s  (WHO) situation report of 8 September 2016, the geographical distribution of Zika virus has steadily widened since the virus was first identified in the Americas in 2014.

A total of 72 countries and territories have reported evidence of mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission since 2007. 56 with reported outbreaks from 2015 onwards. Countries in the Western Pacific Region, such as Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore have also reported new cases whilst Malaysia reported locally acquired Zika virus infections on 3 September.

As the virus has previously been in circulation in Asia there may be some immunity in the population against the virus which could slow this particular outbreak. Click here for access to WHO’s Zika virus situation reports.

It is worth noting that the WHO Director-General on 8 March 2016 stated that “reports and investigations from several countries strongly suggest that sexual transmission of the virus is more common than previously assumed”.

 

Chinese requirements

The Chinese Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau (CIQ) requires vessels which have called at countries with reported Zika virus transmissions to:

  • present a mosquito eradication certificate, issued prior to departure from the affected country, upon arrival in Chinese ports; otherwise the vessel will be instructed to perform eradication measures under the supervision of the local CIQ; and
  • report to the CIQ, prior to arrival, the presence on board of any crew and/or passengers with symptoms of Zika virus disease, such as fever, headache, muscle and joint pain or rash.
  • CIQ has clarified that eradication requirements. Eradication in this case means killing live mosquitoes, their larva, and eggs. According to USDA FAS, eradication treatment may be carried out by either physical or chemical means, and does not require fumigation. Physical means could include trapping, air curtains, or other integrated pest-management techniques. Chemical means could include surface spraying, space spraying, or fumigation, depending on the shipper’s choice. The treatment used should take into account human health and safety.

A list of affected countries, that is, countries with reported Zika virus transmissions, has been produced by the CIQ, but is subject to change in accordance with any widening of the geographical distribution of Zika virus. All WHO member countries where Zika is present will be treated in the same manner.

According to our correspondent, Chinese authorities have confirmed that the requirements apply only if the vessel’s last port of call was in an affected country and do not depend on the time elapsed since the vessel departed from the affected country.

The eradication certificate should be issued either by local authorities or by third party eradication companies in the affected country and should include the relevant vessel details and a description to the effect that “The Certificate shall certify that the subject vessel was disinfected against mosquito before departure”. See our correspondents’ circular No.:PNI 1604 of 18 March 2016 for additional details.

 

Recommendations

In order to avoid the risk of undue delay, Members and clients with vessels calling at Chinese ports should therefore:

  • note the Zika virus instructions from above; and
  • stay in close contact with local agents and/or port authorities in China to clarify any port requirements well before arrival.

Other countries’ port authorities may have additional requirements and members and clients should check with their local agents well before arrival. In addition, we recommend monitoring the situation by consulting webpages maintained by the WHO and other public health authorities and evaluate the risks present in the next port of call.

 

Further information

Additional sources of information on Zika virus disease and its spread:

Gard

World Health Organization (WHO)

United States Department of Agriculture – Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS)

Singapore

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The International Maritime Organization (IMO)

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF)

Public Health England (GOV.UK)

We are grateful to Gard’s correspondent Huatai Insurance Agency & Consultant Service Ltd. for contributing to this information.