The following is text of a letter from Capt. Cole Cosgrove, chairman of the Ship Operations Cooperative Program (SOCP) Safety & Health Working Group:
The uninterrupted flow of commerce on our U.S. Marine Transportation System (MTS) is critical to both national security and economic vitality. During the ongoing national emergency, it is paramount that we safeguard the continued operation of the MTS in the face of the acute and evolving threats posed by the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic. The MTS, which provides more than 90 percent of the domestic supply chain, is dependent on an extensive support network comprised of workers from both the private and public sectors.
This is a work in progress. As data becomes more widely available, symptomatology, testing, treatment and response to infection and protocols for keeping our sailors safe will change. Research and development continues to enhance our knowledge of COVID-19 and how it can impact our industry and our mariners, but it is paramount that as we learn, we keep our mariners safe and healthy. By utilizing a continuous improvement process in conjunction with this guidance, we look to minimize the potential risk of infection to all personnel involved with vessel operations.
COVID-19 infections on commercial vessels have been infrequent thanks to the efforts of the mariners and the cooperation of labor providers, terminal operators, industry oversight organizations, and vessel owner/operators. However, this has not been without considerable changes to the way the industry had been operating in terms of crew management. Initially, a moratorium was placed on commercial vessel crew reliefs. So far this has worked but keeping mariners on their vessels indefinitely is not a sustainable solution for them or the industry.
The objective of this document is to provide initial protocols that can be used uniformly across the U.S. maritime industry to allow for resumption of much needed vessel crew changes. We also want to begin developing an improvement process that will allow prompt and efficient changes to these protocols as experience and feedback from our marine crews are collected.
Click here to download "U.S. Mariner Crew Change Facilitation Guidance for COVID-19."