Shipping urged to prepare for Wuhan coronavirus

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As the official numbers of Wuhan coronavirus infections in China rise and the virus starts to spread globally, shipping is being urged to prepare on several fronts.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has issued advice to seafarers, asking ship crew to familiarise themselves with guidelines on how to protect themselves from the virus. This comes after Singapore announced on Friday it has implemented temperature screening at all its terminals. Similar measures have been put in place at other top Asian ports.

The ITF guidance advises that seafarers in China should avoid unprotected contact with live animals, ensure all animal products are thoroughly cooked, practise good hygiene, and avoid contact with anyone displaying symptoms.

Danny McGowan from global trade union Nautilus, said: “We will continue to monitor ITF and WHO reports. Seafarers are urged to familiarise themselves with onboard and company guidance for such situations. Those companies who may not yet have procedures in place are urged to seek advice on how their employees and passengers can be protected.”

Oasis P&I also has advice for vessels visiting Chinese ports, suggesting crew minimise interpersonal exchanges with people from ashore as much as possible. It also suggests that disembarkation is avoided unless absolutely necessary.

Law firm Hill Dickinson is advising that shipping prepare for the same issues that arose in previous severe disease outbreaks such as with other coronaviruses or Ebola, including infection of crew members, quarantine measures, closure of ports, and possible repercussions on charterparty obligations.

Beth Bradley, a Partner with Hill Dickinson, said: “While this outbreak is not currently anticipated to cause the global complications experienced by the Ebola and Sars outbreaks, it is wise for ship operators and charterers to be prepared for any greater spread of this virus.”

As of this morning, official Chinese government figures reveal that 80 people have died from the virus, 2,744 have been infected, with 5,794 suspected infections and 30,453 people under observation.

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