As part of a critical industry, maritime companies continue to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Coast Guard have issued preventive and procedural guidelines, many maritime stakeholders are supplementing that with their own recommendations.
The American Waterways Operators (AWO) has compiled a list of federal, state and company COVID-19 guidelines on its website. Links include contingency planning guides; all Coast Guard marine safety information bulletins; prevention practices for off-duty mariners; guidance for crew suspected of having COVID-19 on board a vessel; extension forms for mariner credentials and vessel inspections; and pre-boarding questionnaires. The reference page includes guidance from nine companies.
Guidelines from the Seafarers International Union (SIU) include a stipulation that everyone coming up the gangway will complete a questionnaire. Before entering port, the master will review shipboard rules, including the Coast Guard’s COVID-19 reporting requirements. No non-essential personnel can come on board, and crew will have their temperature taken by a shore contractor.
The SIU’s guidelines also state that all crewmembers who come into contact with visitors are required to sanitize their safety goggles and wash their clothes after the visit. All exterior doors will be locked except for one to allow access to the wheelhouse.
“When practical to do so, the gangway will be flown off the dock to prevent uncontrolled access of people to/from the vessel,” according to the union’s guidance.
Many companies are following suit on embarkation. Rules from the American Steamship Co. state that only employees essential to the vessel’s operations may board it.
“This restriction applies to dock workers, employee families and guests,” said Kevin McMonagle, vice president of operations, in a March 27 letter. “No vessel employee has the authority to approve exceptions to these restrictions.