We are advising ship managers to remain Covid aware and ensure that crews are fully vaccinated amid the prospect of a further wave of infections from a new strain of the virus.
Michael Robertson, a senior marine consultant with Van Ameyde McAuslands, said: “With reports in Europe and Asia pointing to an increase in the number of Covid cases, ship managers and crews should not let their guard down. If there is another wave this winter, we could see ships and crews quarantined again and trade disrupted. There are reports of a new strain of the virus emerging in China, so I don’t think Covid is going away any time soon.”
While a Covid infection may be less severe for a fully vaccinated individual, Van Ameyde McAuslands’ Crew Care team is concerned that some seafarers have yet to receive their booster jabs.
“In the UK, we have seen an increase in vaccinations to keep boosters up to date but, in general, seafarers are not as vaccinated as well as perhaps they should have been. Some seagoers would certainly have missed getting their boosters in the time frame required for them to be effective,” said Robertson.
Charlotte Malkin, Crew Care Coordinator, Van Ameyde McAuslands, said: “While Neptune Declaration statistics point to a seafarer vaccination rate of 89.3%, which is probably an over estimation, we are finding that some crew members have only had one or two of the doses and missed boosters when they were at sea. We’re arranging a lot of vaccinations and tests at the moment.”
While travel entry requirements for many countries have eased, the crew welfare team is arranging more and more in Antigen tests arranged for crews at airports, with results sent directly to the ship manger and individual within 30 minutes.
“When travelling to Asia, a PCR test is still a travel entry requirement. We continue to carry out PCRs for crews travelling back home to the Philippines, for example. Chinese Embassy approved PCRs are also required if vessels are scheduled to visit Chinese ports or if crews are flying back home from China,” said Malkin.
If tested positive, Van Ameyde McAuslands places the seafarer under quarantine at an approved hotel, providing welfare support and carrying out tests at regular intervals. If symptoms persist or advance the crew care team transports the individual to hospital.
The marine consultancy is also advising ship operators to keep managers and crews abreast of the rapidly developing monkeypox situation and how to mitigate against the risk of infection.
“We are keeping a fairly close eye on the implications of the monkeypox outbreak, which is now shown to be transmissible by touch at a certain point in the incubation period. P&I Club clients are already issuing advisories based on our recommendations,” said Robertson.
Katy Peters, Founder and CEO of 360 Health, a medical services provider that supports the Crew Care team with vaccination supplies, medical escorts and nursing support, said: “Similar to Covid-19, monkeypox infection is likely to bring on flu-like symptoms – fever, headaches etc. but the incubation period could be up to 21 days. A rash usually appears within one to five days after the onset of symptoms and this could be on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like hands, feet, chest, genitals or anus. The illness will typically last between 2-4 weeks.”
Van Ameyde Marine encourages crews to practice good and frequent handwashing and advises against close contact with anyone showing signs of extensive skin eruptions, blisters and rashes.
If seafarers do show signs of a mild monkeypox infection, they should take medication to manage symptoms. If they develop more severe symptoms, they should be isolated in a separate room to prevent the infection spreading to other crew members. Social-distancing measures should be maintained with disposable gloves and face masks worn when in close proximity to an infected person.
Van Ameyde Marine also recommends crews to stop sweeping and vacuuming in infected areas to avoid disturbing virus particles. Infected bedding, clothing, and towelling should be carefully placed in plastic bags without shaking the items before carrying them to washing areas. Items should be boil washed at more than 60°C.
“Ship operators should advise their P&I Clubs immediately if they suspect they have a case on monkeypox on board one of their vessels,” said Robertson. “The Club can provide advice and guidance and instruct experts to assist as different ports will react differently to the presence of monkeypox on board a visiting vessel just as they do with Covid-19.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that the multi-country outbreak of monkeypox constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.