Calls for more PPE for maritime workers to limit COVID-19 spread on vessels

Gloves and masks as part of PPE. Credit: Futurity

Seafarers are calling for personal protective equipment (PPE) to be made more widely available for maritime workers coming aboard vessels, including surveyors, agents, and stevedores, to avoid the likelihood of exposure to COVID-19.

The seafarers reached out directly to the charity Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) following demands by ports for crew to increase use of PPE during the pandemic; Australian port authorities have stipulated that crew must use PPE in public spaces on board vessels while non-crew members are on board, while port authorities in Greece have said when Motor Oil Hennas refinery workers are on board, crew must wear PPE and keep 2 metres distance.

HRAS has pointed out that due to the impact of COVID-19 on trade, high quality PPE may not be widely available. “PPE supplies – sanitiser, masks etc – are beginning to run low in some ports and this may soon start to have a knock-on effect,” said Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of British Ports Association.

Crews have previously expressed concerns over the lack of PPE being worn by shoreside teams coming aboard. Two weeks ago the master of the Tomini Destiny refused to offload alongside the port of Chittagong, Bangladesh, due to crew concerns over contracting COVID-19 from interactions with unscreened local stevedores, who were also not wearing PPE. The company responded by providing PPE to crew during ongoing shipboard operations.

One anonymous crew member who reached out to HRAS stated, “Please raise the issue of seafarers exposure risk to COVID-19 before some unfortunate seafarers die onboard”.

“While Human Rights at Sea is not a front line welfare organisation, we cannot ignore information coming into us directly from seafarers wanting to have clarity on access to, and use of PPE to protect themselves and their fellow crew members from the risk of contamination from COVID-19. Our reporting therefore reflects their concerns from the front-end,” said David Hammond CEO HRAS to SAS