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Protective measures against COVID-19 for seafarers


COVID-19 is transmitted from human-to-human. Droplets from a diseased person e.g. from coughing and sneezing, landing on objects and surface around the person. Other people catch the virus by touching the objects and the surfaces and then touch their eyes/nose/mouth. Also people can catch COVID-19 by breathing the droplets of diseased person if they are in the same place (and close of course).

Seafarers (on board ship or on leave) who visited an area where coronavirus is reported within the last 14 days or had close contact with someone with respiratory symptoms and had been in an infected place should inform their healthcare providers and If have fever, cough and difficulty in breathing - seek medical attention promptly.

It’s mandatory crew washing hands frequently - with hot water/soap or alcohol based hand rub for 20 seconds, avoid touch face/nose/mouth/eyes with unwashed hands, must encourage use disposable tissue when sneeze/cough/blow nose, sneeze or cough into flexed elbow when tissue is not available, all used tissues must disposed into a waste bin, seafarers must keep at least 3 feet/1 meter distance from person who coughs/sneezes/have fever.

Outbreak Management Plan for COVID-19

Ships should develop a written outbreak management plan. Seafarers must know about this plan and the required implementation of this plan.

The plan should include descriptions of the following:

  • The location or locations on the vessel where the suspected cases will be isolated individually until disembarkation and transfer to health care facility

  • How the communication would be managed with isolated persons

  • The clinical management of the suspected cases

  • The cleaning and disinfection procedures for potentially infected areas including the isolation spaces

  • How close contacts of the suspected case will be managed

  • How food,toilet paper etc. will be provided to the isolated person

The outbreak management plan for COVID-19 should be implemented if it is determined that there is a suspected COVID-19 disease on board.

A suspected case is:

  1. A person with high fever and cough which require admission to hospital


With no other aetiology that fully explains the clinical presentation


A history of travel/residence to infected by COVID-19 countries during the 14 days before the symptoms

  1. A person with high fever and cough which require admission to hospital


At least one of the following:

Contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case


Working or Visiting health facilities where confirmed COVID-19 cases treated.

IMO on Guidance for ship operators for the protection of the seafarers provides a detailed guide for ship operators

According to International Maritime Organization and World Health Organization here is a guidance for ship operators for the protection of the health of seafarers


The “free pratique”,is the license given to a ship to enter port on assurance from the captain to convince the authorities that she is free from contagious disease. The clearance granted is commonly referred to as free pratique. A ship can signal a request for pratique by flying a solid yellow square-shaped flag. This yellow flag is the Q flag in the set of International maritime signal flags. Based on the coronavirus outbreak many ports have followed different ways of handling the incomming vessels. Many countries implemented the rule of all the vessels that come to port the crew is not allowed to go out to shore and no embarking or disembarking of crew is possible.

During this period usually only the ship agent (and the doctor) comes onboard to take the documents for the free pratique but the crew is not allowed to go out ashore. All vessels who called Italian ports will be put on quarantine on road till the release into free pratique is obtained. Following documentation are additional to usual pre arrival requirements and must be sent prior vessels arrival holding yellow flag, otherwise Free pratique will not be granted.

1. Copy of Medical Log book

2. Register of body temperature to all crew.

3. Crew change movements as from 1/12/2019.

4. MHSD (Medical Health Ship Declaration)

5. Individual Health Declaration form & questionnaires form.

In case any of the crew have any COVID-19 symptoms, free pratique will not be granted and vessel must comply the quarantine.In addition the list of ten ports the vessel has visited is required. If vessel has visited, embark or disembark crew from countries infected by COVID-19, the last 15 days some ports have quarantine restrictions. It is very important to realise that the above information is because also shipping industry is facing the pandemic disease. This fact is a stressing factor for everyone. Although if the ship master is educated by his company and the related authorities for COVID-19 and the prevention of this virus, maybe the vessel will be a safer place (if also the crew is well monitored by the agency and have recent examinations that incoming people are healthy). Of course the crew must be well informed and perform the rules of COVID-19 prevention correctly.

For a person who is onboard for weeks, the sight of a port symbolically is always the stability and the point of connection with people (loved ones, family, friends etc.). Also port is the point where the seafarer can find supplies or products which will make his daily routine onboard more positive (i.e.favourite foods or snacks, internet cards etc.).Converting the port from symbol of relief to a stess-place would be a negative change to seafarer’s life. People in charge must communicate this matter as it is: it is something that affects all of us. Also they must ask everyone’s help and attention for this issue. Crew must use vessel’s storage of masks and alcohol based hand sanitizers.Building an environment of trust and honesty is a valuable part of the management’s.

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