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ICS: Seafarers Denied Medical Care Due to COVID-19 Restrictions

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File image courtesy Clear Seas

By The Maritime Executive 05-29-2020 05:43:41

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) reported Friday that it has received news of seafarers who have been denied medical attention by port authorities over concerns about COVID-19. 

ICS said that it has heard of many cases in which seafarers who are suffering from non-COVID-related medical conditions have been refused entry to port or denied medical evacuation for more than four days. The organization called for urgent action to ensure that no other seafarers are denied care for an extended period. 

"This is simply not acceptable," said ICS secretary general Guy Platten. 

To address the concerns of national and local governments, ICS has issueda 48-page guidance document on measures for safe port entry, shipboard COVID-19 risk reduction and outbreak management, and non-COVID medical assistance. The guidance is intended to give new assurance to governments and port authorities that it is possible to conduct crew changes safely and effectively in the coronavirus era. The guidance will be delivered directly to IMO member states' health ministries and global port authorities. 

Since the outbreak began, COVID-19-related restrictions and reductions in flight availability have prevented more than 200,000 seafarers from making routine crew changes. Since they are spending an extended period onboard, these seafarers are at risk of experiencing adverse health effects, including fatigue and mental health issues, ICS warned. 

Addressing these concerns, the IMO, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have called on member states to designate mariners as "key workers" and to allow them to transit to and from their vessels. "For humanitarian reasons - and the need to comply with international safety and employment regulations - crew changes cannot be postponed indefinitely," the agencies recently wrote.