On April 16, 2020, the Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA) issued a memorandum providing guidance for the protection of maritime personnel on vessels during the COVID-19 pandemic. The memorandum aims to support the uninterrupted flow of the nation’s marine transportation system while maintaining the safety of maritime personnel. The guidelines contained and referenced in the memorandum follow the recommended standards and practices from national and international bodies such as the U.S. Coast Guard (U.S.C.G.), Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and International Maritime Organization (IMO).

As OMSA indicated in a previous memorandum providing guidance to the transport of potentially infected personnel, the spread of COVID-19 can result in placing the vessel and/or crew under quarantine for a period of no less than 14 days. To mitigate the spread of the disease and ensure the safety of the individuals aboard, the vessel operator and crew must risk assess the situation, develop plans, and set up isolation areas. These procedures should include:

  • Properly equipping the vessel with necessary protective gear (e.g., PPE) or having such supplies readily available at shoreside facilities.
  • Establishing and communicating isolation protocols to ensure that all individuals are aware of safety measures, including any restrictions and isolation areas.
  • Periodic monitoring and screening individuals to identify any suspicions of COVID-19 aboard while ensuring the confidentiality of the information (e.g., medical records). If possible, use devices to detect temperature changes and fever. Alternatively, watch for commonly known symptoms of fever and follow the guidance on fever detection from the CDC.
  • Designating an isolation area stocked with necessary supplies. Preferably, this area should have its own ventilation system with negative air pressure to prevent airborne contamination. Alternatively, ventilation crossovers should be minimized.
  • Assign a Designated Observer to assist the isolated individual while limiting the contact with the remaining crew.
  • Establishing and implementing stringent cleaning and disinfecting procedures, particularly for the isolation areas as well as the routes leading to the isolation areas. When items must be cleaned and sanitized in the vessel’s laundry facility, avoid cross contamination, and wash and dry those items at the highest permissible temperature. Disposable PPE and cleaning materials should be discarded into designated garbage bags and not into bins or bags located in common spaces.

Once a symptomatic individual is identified, Vessel operators should also develop plans and procedures for the arrival at the port. These procedures should consist of:

  • Proper notification to the U.S.C.G and any other governmental body as directed by the U.S.C.G. If the vessel is arriving in the U.S. from a foreign port, notify the CDC directly.
  • Follow any and all outlined vessel’s Safety Management System and Job Safety Analysis, particularly the isolation procedures.
  • Use proper safety equipment (e.g., PPE). All individuals involved should properly utilize and dispose PPE. Clean and disinfect any areas and surfaces that were in contact with the potentially infected individual.

The implementation of protocols and the communication among stakeholders are essential to ensure the safety of the crew while maintaining the viability of the endeavor. During this pandemic, communication concerning the responsibility and liability during transport, financial responsibility of the vessel during a potential downtime and/or quarantine, and the financial responsibility surrounding any disinfecting activities, including the stocking of protective gear, should be taken into consideration

If you have questions, please contact Chuck Talley at 504-585-3046.

For more information:  https://cdn.ymaws.com/offshoremarine.org/resource/resmgr/omsa_guidelines_for_the_prev.pdf (full memorandum from OMSA attaching practical checklist sheets [pages 8-17])