The 180 million GT, ‘A’ rated North P&I Club is advising shipowner members to take great care to protect the health of their crew members when calling at ebola-affected ports in west Africa. In the latest issue of its loss prevention newsletter ‘Signals’, it also recommends that shipowners incorporate ebola-specific clauses in their charterparties.
According to head of loss prevention Tony Baker, ‘Members trading or being requested to trade to an ebola-affected area must consider both the health and commercial risks very carefully. There are some simple measures which may be taken on board to help keep crew member safe, as well as steps members can take to help protect themselves from the potential commercial consequences of the outbreak.’
North recommends a series of control measures that shipowners calling at affected ports may implement, including preventing shore leave and unauthorised access to the vessel, cancelling crew changeovers, banning the purchase of fresh food (particularly meat) and ensuring crew members are scrupulous with their hygiene and food preparation.
‘A master whose vessel has visited an ebola area and who suspects a crew member may be infected should seek urgent medical advice, ’ says Baker. ‘Where it is not possible to disembark crew members exhibiting ebola symptoms, it is recommended they are restricted to their cabin and have minimal contact with the rest of the crew for at least 21 days. Strict quarantine procedures will need to be put in place on board and masters should follow expert medical advice in such circumstances.’
North also recommends that shipowners entering into a new charterparty which will require their ship to call at ebola-affect ports should incorporate ebola-specific clauses that apportion risk between the charterer and owner. Without such clauses, the club says shipowners risk being sued by charterers for refusing to visit what they consider to be an unsafe port or for delays incurred when a crew member falls ill with suspected ebola.
‘The situation is less clear under existing charterparties and shipowners need to consider their position carefully, ’ says Baker. ‘If the decision is taken to trade to an affected area, members should develop a plan that takes into account World Health Organisation and industry advice and includes guidelines for the vessel to minimise the risk of infection and to deal with potentially infected crew members.’