On March 25, 2020, the Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA) issued a memorandum providing guidance on the transport of potentially infected personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic. The memorandum aims to guide the offshore service industry on using the appropriate standards and procedures prior to, during and after the transport of potentially infected personnel.
The transport of infected or potentially infected personnel can likely increase the crew’s exposure to COVID-19 which can result in placing the vessel and/or the vessel’s crew under quarantine for a period of no less than 14 days. To mitigate exposure prior to transportation, all stakeholders should assess risk and reach a consensus regarding all planned activities and protocols before executing any related operations. Further, relevant stakeholder Safety Management Systems (SMS) should be consulted to determine the safest means of performing any necessary activities and Management of Change (MOC) procedures should be applied appropriately. Finally, stakeholders should ensure that all arrangements, isolation measures, crew protective procedures, screening records and protocols are well documented.
Prior to embarking, the individual being transported should be accompanied from the point of origin by one or more assistants. All personnel participating in this operation, including assistants and vessel crew, should use appropriate medical PPE. In addition, vessel operators should consider providing guidance to personnel on how to properly don and remove PPE.
Once the individual is onboard, the same should be directly taken to the quarantine facility or designated area, and the assistants escorting the individual should leave the vessel immediately. The route(s) taken during the transfer should be disinfected, including any surfaces (e.g., paperwork, other materials) that may have been in contact with the individual as well as the assistants.
The individual should be isolated and restricted to a single cabin or area of the vessel. Precautions should be implemented to prevent airborne spread, including sealing off the cabin from connected spaces and creating negative air pressure. Further, cross connections in ventilation should be closed and the use of High-Efficiency Particulate Absorbing (HEPA) equipment, such as portable air filtration units, should be implemented. Contact between vessel personnel and potentially infected individuals should be kept at an absolute minimum. Quarantine should be maintained until the infected individual is removed from the vessel. Discontinuing quarantine precautions for any reason should only be made during emergency situations or in consultation with and approval of the CDC and U.S.C.G.
On arrival, the individual should be accompanied by one or more assistants, preferably assistants from a medical facility, transportation entity, or another entity rather than crewmembers. If necessary, the crewmembers participating in the operation should use appropriate PPE. Once the individual has disembarked, the route(s), surfaces, paperwork and other materials in contact with the individual as well as the assistants should be disinfected.
To ensure the safety of the vessel’s crew, crewmembers and other personnel onboard should be regularly screened and results/responses recorded. Screening questions should focus on COVID-19 symptoms, with particular attention to warning signs. If a crew member onboard begins to show symptoms of illness during transit, quarantine procedures should be implemented immediately. Records of regular screenings, temperature readings, specific symptoms, and any relevant medical information should be relayed to U.S.C.G. During transport, regular status reports should be provided to the U.S.C.G., including patient condition and vessel estimated time of arrival. Vessels that have visited a foreign port and are returning to a U.S. port are required to report to the CDC any illnesses or deaths among the vessel’s crewmembers.
The communication among stakeholders, including governmental agencies, is essential to secure the safety of the crewmembers as well as the commercial viability of the endeavor. Before considering the transport of potentially infected personnel, communication concerning the responsibility and liability during transport, financial responsibility of vessel during a potential downtime of the vessel and/or quarantine, and the financial responsibility surrounding any disinfecting activities should be taken into consideration.
If you have questions, please contact Chuck Talley at 504-585-3046
For more information:
“Interim Guidance for Ships” from CDC
“List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2” from EPA
“COVID-19 Symptoms and Warning Signs” from CDC