Guidance on seafarer access to medical care ashore endorsed by IMO

IMO headquarters in London. Credit: IMO

Recommendations to ensure seafarers get access to the medical care they need ashore during the COVID-19 pandemic have been endorsed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on 6 July.

The Recommendations for port and coastal States on the prompt disembarkation of seafarers for medical care ashore during the COVID-19 pandemic, were developed to tackle the issue of seafarers being unable to disembark despite needing critical medical assistance, due to COVID-19 restrictions in ports.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the Joint Negotiating Group issued a plea in a joint statement on 27 April, after receiving multiple reports of seafarers with potentially life-threatening symptoms, unrelated to COVID-19, being refused emergency treatment by local port authorities.

The ITF also urged governments to respect seafarers’ rights to access the necessary emergency medical treatment needed. Under the Maritime Labour Convention, seafarers must be granted immediate medical care and access to onshore facilities, should they require it, by the port state. Port states are also obligated under SOLAS to provide assistance, including medical, to seafarers in distress.

The recommendations, endorsed by the IMO, include advice on monitoring for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 prior to disembarkation; isolation of suspected or confirmed cases; how to correctly use personal protective equipment, and how to minimize the risk of exposure to personnel in port during disembarkation and transfer to the nearest medical facility.

The recommendations were developed by the ICS, IAPH, BIMCO, IFSMA, INTERTANKO, P&I Clubs, CLIA, INTERCARGO, InterManager, IPTA, IMCA, INTERFERRY, FONASBA, ITF and WSC.

The recommendations can be found here.