SAMSA outlines measures to curb spread of Covid 19 by ships and crew at South Africa seas

Pretoria: 17 March 2020

The South African Maritime Authority (SAMSA) has set out guidelines on how management of sea going vessels falling within its scope of activities shall be dealt with, following the outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid19), and which partly suspends some of its activities, such as ship surveys for a limited period of time.

The publication of two Marine Notices due for release this week, follows fresh on the pronouncement by the Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula on Monday this week on steps the maritime safety agency will embark upon. That in turn came in the wake of South Africa President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa announcing on Sunday a National Disaster declaration aimed at curbing the spread of the Covid19 virus now rampant in just about every country in the world, from its outbreak in China last December.

The first of the new Marine Notices announces the temporal suspension of ship surveys, audits or inspection from this week until 30 March 2020. “As of 16 March 2020, all statutory surveys, audits and inspections will be suspended for a period of 14 days.”

The second notice; “serves to inform vessels, Masters, crew, passengers, ship agents, Stevedores, surveyors, Ship managers, Ship owners and all other stakeholders with additional information in order to manage any suspected outbreak of Covid-19 onboard a vessel in the best possible way.”

In the former notice (temporal suspension of certain services) SAMSA states in part that: “Recognizing that, due to the outbreak of the COvid-19, the industry is facing challenges in meeting statutory requirements stipulated in the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC 2006) and other relevant IMO Conventions, SAMSA has decided to provide guidance for dealing with the circumstances for example, extending seafarer periods of service onboard vessels, delaying periods for surveys, inspections and audits in a pragmatic and harmonized approach.

The agency then urges affected parties to read carefully the Marine Notice in order to ensure a clear understanding of its contents and how to enlist help when necessary.

DSC_4428In justification of the termporary suspection of services, SAMSA states: “SAMSA surveyors frequently travel to smaller fishing communities where there are no proper medical facilities in the area, other than a local clinic. SAMSA surveyors may therefore inadvertently spread the coronavirus to a local fishing community when visiting.

“Vessels operating from these communities, whose safety certificates expire before 15 April 2020, may request an extension on their safety certificates for up to 60 days, subject to change.

“In cases where Local General Safety Certificates (LGSC) are already expired, a re-issue of an LGSC will be considered on a case by case basis provided that the previous LGSC has not been expired for more than 60 days. To this end, payment for re-issue will need to be made.”

The Marine Notice then expands on the set of other services affected and provides guidance on how affected parties shall solicit and receive medical and related services under given sets of conditions and circumstances.

In the other Marine Notice, SAMSA provides extensive detail of measures currently being undertaken in South Africa to prevent the spread of the killer CoVid19 and arrangements, inclusive of contact details, to be utilised by affected parties in the maritime sector.

These also include recommended preventive measures against the spread of the virus within South African borders.

Key contact numbers being offered to affected stakeholders are follows:

  1. CORONAVIRUS PUBLIC HOTLINE: Tel. 08 000 29999
  2. MARITIME RESCUE COORDINATION CONTACT DETAILS (24 / 7 / 365): Tel: +27 (0) 21 938 3300 or mrcc.ct@samsa.org.za
  3. TRANSNET NATIONAL PORT AUTHORITY: Tel: +27 (0) 83 378 8877 or Tel: +27 (0) 83 306 1228
  4. SOUTH AFRICAN DESIGNATED COASTAL HOSPITALS

Western Cape          Tygerberg Hospital  Cape Town   +27(0) 21 938 4911

KwaZulu-Natal         Grey’s Hospital         Pietermaritzburg       +27(0) 33 897 3000

Eastern Cape           Livingstone Hospital   Port  Elizabeth       +27(0) 41 405 9111

Northern Cape          Kimberley Hospital  Kimberley      +27(0) 53 802 9111

Designated hospitals for managing Coronavirus –

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1u86kN7ZVxPBG-s5pzHc93b29fkpKGC16&usp=sharing

On publication, the two marine notices can be accessed from the SAMSA website by following this link:

http://www.samsa.org.za/Pages/default.aspx

 

Meanwhile, the outbreak of the Covid19 virus and its ferocious, insatiable and unstoppable appetite to infect large numbers of people globally at an alarming rate has put paid to South Africa maritime sector’s celebration of the return of the country’s sole cadet training and research vessel, the SA Agulhas, from its historic sojourn through the Indian and Southern Oceans, including Antarctic this week.

Make history of the SA Agulhas’ journey to the ocean region this time around, and which began on its departure on 27 December 2019 from Cape Town, was part of its all female crew of 22 cadets and two female training officers – the first of its kind ever to undertake the journey, along with a group of Indian scientists periodical studying that part of the world.

Cadets muster during safety drill onboard SAAGThe SA Agulhas’ historic all female cadet crew and training officers was scheduled to be celebrated during a now cancelled event scheduled for East London, one of South Africa’s major coastal cities on the Indian Ocean, on Friday 20 March 2020.

Now with strict restrictions on people’s gatherings and precisely their close contact in groups, as well as other considerations related to current efforts aimed at prevention of the spread of the Covid19 virus, the reception will no longer take place, confirmed SAMSA in Pretoria this week.

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South Africa in pace with global efforts to prevent spread of coronavirus.

coronavirus getty image from business insider
(A Getty photo, courtersy of Business Insider) The Diamond Princess, the world’s largest cruise vessel with more than 3500 passengers reportedly quarantened in Japan due to rising infections of coronavirus reportedly found in passengers on board the vessel in the past week. As of Monday (10 February) at least 130 people said to be infected so far, with that figure rising by the day.

Port Elizabeth: 10 February 2020

Global efforts to first restrict and then contain a worldwide rapid spread of the coronavirus (2019-nCov) currently causing havoc in China, where it originated, are now fully impacting shipping, with several countries including South Africa reportedly having implemented health measures that restrict the movement of seafarers whose ships have been to China recently.

According to shipping group, Wilhelmsen, “due to coronavirus, many ports have implemented safety measures for vessels coming from countries with confirmed cases of 2019-nCov, especially from China.”

This comes amid news that crew – as well as passengers – aboard some ships that have been to China are among a growing list of victims; the latest of these being a cruise ship, the Diamond Princess reportedly with more than 3 000 people onboard and some 130 of which have since been found to be infected.

The Wilhelmsen report, (citing a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, said 16 countries where the virus was confirmed include China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka, United States of America, Canada, France, Germany and United Arab Emirates.

The report said: “Most often used safety measures involve quarantine stations, temperature screenings Maritime declarations of Health send (sic) by the Master of a vessel prior to its arrival, Free Pratique confirmations, identifying high risk vessels – which are vessels coming from China or other countries where coronavirus have been confirmed ad necessary for Port Health clearances among others.”

IMG_8510

In a separate report currently tracking country ports responses across the globe – including a live map with regular updates – Wilhelmsen mentioned South Africa as among countries now with certain restrictions to movements of vessels originating from China.

The report states that South Africa currently has two restrictions; (1): ‘vessels whose previous port of call was China and (2): “crew changes etc for Chinese seafarers or those who embarked in China.”

corona virus
Graphic courtersy of Oxford University.

In South Africa, on 30 January 2020 the National Department of Health issued a document named: “Standard Operating Procedures for Preparedness, Detection and Response to a Coronavirus (2019-NCOV) Outbreak in South Africa.”

The Health Department’s document states that while as at 29 January 2020 there had been no reported cases of the coronavirus in the country, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) would closely monitor the situation “and will test patients that satisfy the criteria for suspected cases, bearing in mind that it is influenza season in the northern hemisphere and the expected respiratory tract infections are common.”

On restrictions and containment management of risk at the country’s ports of entry, including shipping ports, the Health Department says Port Health Service ‘is the first line of defence to protect citizens of South Africa and visitors against the health risks associated with border movement of people, conveyances, baggage, cargo shipments and other imported consignments.

“It is thus vital for all points of entry to be on the alert and (be) prepared to respond to possible importation of a communicable disease, whether intentional or unintentional.”

DSC_3548To this end, the document offers a set of ‘standard operating procedures’ (that) “detail measures that must be implemented by port health officials in preventing and responding to a suspected case of EVD.”

Screening measures include:

  • “Port Health officials must monitor all arriving conveyances from the affected countries and increase surveillance measures
  • “Upon arrival of the conveyance, Port Health officials must collect and verify the health documentation and interview the crew members/operators to determine if there is any sick passenger on board.
  • “In addition to the routine interview of crew members/operators, Port Health officials must ask crew members questions specific to signs and symptoms of 2019-nCov.
  • “If the Port Health official is certain that there are no sick passengers on board and all health requirements have been met, the passengers may be allowed to disembark.
  • “All arriving passengers must be channelled through thermal processes.
  • “Travelers found to have elevated temperature must be escorted to the Port Health clinic where available, for further examination and must be interviewed to determine their travel history
  • “Where Port Health clinic is not available, Port Health must interview the traveller with elevated temperature to determine their travel history, record the details of the traveller and if required, transfer the traveller to the nearest health facility. Finally,
  • “Travellers presenting with any of one these symptoms; fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain and have travelled to the affected countries must be isolated and arrangements made to transportation of the traveller to the nearest designated health facility.

In the case of known and reported cases by vessels themselves, the procedure involves the following:

  • “From an incoming vessel, a patient or others passengers (must) inform Captains/ and the crew must move the suspected patent to an isolated area, and the Captain must report illness to the harbour
  • “The Captain or vessel Clearing Agent must inform Port Health Officers
  • “The Port Health officers must contact emergency Medical Services and the designated hospital for patient referral, as well as notify the provincial and/or district CDC
  • “The Port Health officer must facilitate assessment of a passenger(s) and contact the vessel prior to their departure from the habour
  • “CDC coordinator must monitor contacts utilising information provided by the port health
  • “If close contacts develop signs and symptoms, they must be referred to designated health facility
  • Where cleaning and/or disinfection is required, the Port Health office must inform cleaning/handling company and monitor the process.

Health centres designated as “hospitals for managing 2019-nCov cases” in South Africa’s coastal provinces include the Greys Hospital (Durban, KwaZulu-Natal), Livingstone Hospital (Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape), Tygerberg Hospital (Cape Town, Western Cape) and Kimberley Hospital (Kimberley, Northern Cape).

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