he In­ter­na­tional Cham­ber of Ship­ping (ICS) is warn­ing of re­ports of sea­far­ers be­ing de­nied med­i­cal evac­u­a­tion or ac­cess to ports de­spite se­ri­ous med­i­cal con­di­tions, de­scrib­ing the prac­tice un­ac­cept­able.

“We’re re­ceiv­ing alarm­ing re­ports of sea­far­ers who are suf­fer­ing from se­ri­ous med­i­cal in­jury such as a stroke, be de­nied med­i­cal evac­u­a­tion for over four days. This is sim­ply not ac­cept­able,” Guy Plat­ten, Sec­re­tary­Gen­eral of the ICS said on Fri­day. ICS has is­sued new guid­ance for ship-own­ers and op­er­a­tors to deal with un­well sea­far­ers.

The cham­ber said on Thurs­day, May 28, that it was plan­ning to re­mind gov­ern­ments of their obli­ga­tions to pro­vide med­i­cal care for sea­far­ers dur­ing a virtual meet­ing of healthcare pro­fes­sion­als, or­ga­nized by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO), In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Or­gan­i­sa­tion (IMO) and In­ter­na­tional La­bor Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ILO), where the lat­est guid­ance for sea­far­ers was set to be dis­cussed. The 48-page doc­u­ment builds on the pre­vi­ous guid­ance is­sued in March, pro­vid­ing com­pre­hen­sive rec­om­men­da­tions on: Safe port en­try, ship­board mea­sures to ad­dress risks as­so­ci­ated with COVID-19, man­ag­ing an out­break of COVID-19 on board ships and man­ag­ing other med­i­cal is­sues dur­ing COVID-19, in­clud­ing med­i­cal as­sis­tance to sea­far­ers in ports.

“The new guid­ance should serve as a re­as­sur­ance to gov­ern­ments and port au­thor­i­ties that it is fully pos­si­ble to con­duct crew changes in a safe and ef­fec­tive man­ner. Ur­gent ac­tion is now re­quired to en­sure that no other sea­far­ers are sub­jected to pro­longed pe­riod with­out med­i­cal as­sis­tance if they need it,” the cham­ber pointed out.

Since the out­break of the virus, COVID-19 re­lated re­stric­tions and the dras­tic re­duc­tion of air traf­fic have pre­vented over 200,000 sea­far­ers from rou­tine changeover­s, ac­cord­ing to the data from ICS. Spend­ing an ex­tended pe­riod on­board, these sea­far­ers are at risk from ad­verse health ef­fects, in­clud­ing fa­tigue and men­tal health is­sues.

APL Eng­land pho­tographed in the Port of Bris­bane af­ter it lost roughly 40 con­tain­ers off the coast of Syd­ney on May 29, 2020.

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