By reason of the increasing reported numbers of suspected Coronavirus cases in China and globally, we strongly recommend shipowners to monitor the situation in this respect and to judge the extent of possible risk in the ports of call affected by the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak as “a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC)” and is in discussions with Chinese government officials to assess and take necessary precautionary measures to limit the fast spreading of the virus.
Useful guidance and latest news on the Coronavirus can be found on the WHO website: https://www.who.int
General and operational recemmendations
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. It also includes avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
When calling at a port, you may expect port authorities to implement extra documentary measures and health checks when your vessel comes from a port in an area having been declared affected by the virus. There are indications that the spread of the virus is still continuing, so the probability that such scenario might happen is likely to increase. Therefore please check with your local agent prior to calling the port what the precise procedures are in this respect.
In general we recommend for the Master to prepare the crew on how to act when illness occurs on board, which might be contagious; to follow strictly all regulations on allowing people to come on board; to carefully judge the local situation in an affected area whether crew leave or change can take place safely.
If during the voyage an outbreak of a disease occurs, which have the symptoms of a flu, please ask your medical practitioner for further advise. Should there be indications that the corona virus might be involved, the crewmember should be isolated and restricted contact with other crewmembers should be implemented.
As per the WHO, the incubation time is 2 to 10 days and the illness is already contagious during that time. It is therefore advisable to register who had contact with the particular crewmember and to take care that all measures are recorded in the relevant logs.
The shipping industry should be prepared to face the same issues that arose in previous severe disease outbreaks, such as with other
coronaviruses or Ebola. The special circumstances arising therefrom, such as infection of crew members, quarantine measures, closure of
ports may affect obligations under the governing Charter Party.
Shipowners as being the employers have a duty of care towards the crew under their employment contracts, and a breach of such a duty may lead to exposure to a variety of claims.
Delay by way of quarantine or forced deviation may lead the time charterer to place the vessel off-hire, whether such can be done lawfully depends on the circumstances, the wording of the charter party and how instructions have been given by the charterer in respect of the employment of the vessel.
In principle under voyage charters additional expenses will be for the account of the Shipowner, but there might be grounds to claim otherwise.
In cases where Charterers take on the obligation to nominate a safe port, discussion may arise whether a contagious disease, like the corona virus, will legally cause a port to become unsafe.
It is not likely that the present situation will render a port unsafe, but such may become the case when the outbreak escalates to much greater proportions.
Should you have any questions following this information, please do not hesitate to contact us.
About EF Marine
EF Marine provides Fixed Premium P&I solutions to Shipowners, Charterers and MultiModal operators. EF Marine has a global client base and offices in Singapore and Rotterdam. EF Marine provides ‘AA-‘rated security from Swiss Re Corporate Solutions with limits up to USD 500m. Through our partnership with Swiss Re Corporate Solutions we provide our clients with first class security combined with EF Marine’s extensive knowledge of the P&I market.