Coronavirus impact on shipping grows

Malcolm Latarche

Malcolm Latarche · 04 February 2020


As the spread of the coronavirus continues and the fatality rate in China exceeds that of the 2003 SARS epidemic, the impact on shipping continues to grow.

The death toll in China stood at 425 on Monday with more than 70 new fatalities reported in a single day. Single deaths have been reported in the Philippines and Hong Kong bringing the global total to 427. There are reports of at least 180 cases of infections outside of China. During the SARS outbreak of 2002-03 there were 349 deaths in mainland China and it eventually killed nearly 800 people globally.


On Monday 3 February, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago was reported in local press as saying that ship crews who have recently called in any China ports have been barred from leaving their vessels to avoid further infections of the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV) in the country.

“Not only the passengers coming from Chinese territories are barred from disembarking but we have also disallowed the crews of vessels which recently called in any China port,” he said. Aside from the disembarkation ban, which is applicable to all PPA-controlled ports, Santiago said allowing seafarers’ visitors—such as relatives—to board vessels, have also been temporarily suspended. “It is also a practice in the country that relatives of Filipino seafarers are allowed visitation rights as well as several institutions giving moral, spiritual and emotional support. And this too is temporarily suspended,” Santiago said.

To ensure strict implementation of the measure, the PPA said a team will be deployed in each PPA ports to monitor the movements of all personnel, crew, and passengers.

Ship corona

Cruise ships continue to be affected by reaction to the virus. Last week the Costa Smerelda was delayed in Civitavecchia following a suspected case on board but that was later found to be a false alarm.

On 1 February the AIDAperla operated by German cruise line AIDA Cruises was refused entry at the port of Castries, Saint Lucia, with some passengers on board having respiratory issues despite reassurances by the vessel owner that these did not involve the coronavirus. The ship was allowed to call at Fort-de-France, Martinique the following day.

Today some 3,700 persons on board the cruise ship Diamond Princess were being held in quarantine onboard at the Japanese port of Yokohama after it was reported that a passenger who had disembarked in Hong Kong last week had tested positive for the disease.

In the US, the Coast Guard Director of Incident Management and Preparedness has issued Marine Safety Information Bulletin 02-20, “Novel Coronavirus,” to provide additional information and guidance to the maritime community regarding the current novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak.

The US has declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a public health emergency and has issued quarantine orders for passengers arriving by air in the US. President Trump then issued a proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Non-immigrants of Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus and Other Appropriate Measures to Address This Risk. This proclamation includes temporary suspension of foreign nationals (with some exceptions such as vessel crewmembers) who were physically present in the People’s Republic of China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the US.

The latest USCG notice states “Illness of a person onboard a vessel that may adversely affect the safety of a vessel or port facility is a hazardous condition per 33 CFR 160.216 and must be immediately reported to the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port (COTP) under 33 CFR 160.206. Cases of persons who exhibit symptoms consistent with 2019-nCoV must be reported to the COTP. Such persons will be evaluated and treated on a case by case basis.

Per 42 CFR 71.21, vessels destined for a US port are required to report to the CDC any sick or deceased crew/passengers during the 15 days prior to arrival.

Passenger vessels or any vessel carrying passengers that have been to China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) or embarked passengers who have been in China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) within the last 14 days will be denied entry into the US. If all passengers exceed 14 days since being in China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) and are symptom free, the vessel will be permitted to enter the US to conduct normal operations. These temporary measures are in place to safeguard the American public.

Non-passenger commercial vessels that have been to China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) or embarked crewmembers who have been in China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) within the last 14 days, with no sick crewmembers, will be permitted to enter the US and conduct normal operations, with restrictions. Crewmembers on these vessels will be required under COTP authority to remain aboard the vessel except to conduct specific activities directly related to vessel cargo or provisioning operations.

The Coast Guard considers it a hazardous condition under 33 CFR 160.216 if a crewmember who was in China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) within the past 14 days is brought onboard the vessel during transit. This requires immediate notification to the nearest Coast Guard Captain of the Port.

Vessel masters shall inform Coast Guard boarding teams of any ill crewmembers on their vessel prior to embarking the team and boarding teams should verify the type of illnesses with CDC if concerns arise.

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