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08 April 2020
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern under WHO International Health Regulations.
In the wake of the WHO's declaration that COVID-19 is now classified as a pandemic, the Malaysian Marine Department (MMD) has issued instructions to shipowners, ship agents, masters, seafarers, port operators, recognised organisations and the maritime industry.
MMD's instructions are contained in the Malaysian Shipping Notice 2 of 2020.
The MMD's instructions apply from 18 March 2020 and must be implemented by all ship managers, ship operators, shipowners (individually referred to as 'companies'), seafarers on board Malaysian-flagged vessels and foreign ships in Malaysian waters.
The MMD requires the shipping community to implement the following precautionary measures.
The master of a Malaysian-flagged vessel must cooperate with port state authorities to ensure, where appropriate, that:
Masters and shipowners must ensure that any seafarers with explicit COVID-19 symptoms on board a Malaysian-flagged vessel in any territorial waters who need immediate medical emergency treatment or further medical examination for COVID-19 are given access to medical facilities at the nearest shore subject to the port or port state requirements.
All aspects of cleanliness, in particular regarding hands and the respiratory system, must be practised extensively on board vessels. The following basic supplies must be adequately available on board all vessels:
Passengers and seafarers should receive information in accordance with WHO advice for domestic and international traffic regarding an outbreak of COVID-19.
Masters and shipowners must ensure the WHO Operational considerations for managing COVID-19 cases/outbreak on board ships: interim guidance 24 February 2020 and the WHO Handbook for management of public health events on board ships are readily available on board. Both documents should be read alongside one another and implemented accordingly.
Masters and shipowners should implement optimum preventative measures and pre-boarding screening.
Shipowners should provide guidance to crew on how to recognise the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, together with the best practices. They should also provide training for hygienic measures to their crew on board the vessel.
Any individual on board with an acute respiratory illness, fever and at least one symptom of respiratory disease (eg, cough, flu, sore throat, shortness of breath or continuous fever) during the 14 days prior to the onset of the symptoms should be reported to the next relevant port of authority, the nearest district health office and the MMD. They should be quarantined on board for at least 14 days.
Close contact should be avoided as much as possible between individual crew members on board. Masters should ensure the strict isolation of crew members with COVID-19 symptoms or acute respiratory illness.
Meat, milk or animal products should always be handled with care to avoid cross contamination with uncooked food, consistent with good food handling practices.
On-board medical personnel should use PPE when handling COVID-19 cases, including supportive treatment such as providing oxygen, antibiotics and other related drugs to those suspected to have contracted COVID-19.
Patients should wear face masks and be quarantined in closed rooms or cabins. Anyone who enters a quarantined room or cabin (including the medical team) should take appropriate precautions, including wearing a face mask and washing their hands with soap and warm water.
All vessels must adhere strictly to the instructions of the port authority to undergo tests and medical examination if so required. The results of tests and medical examinations must be submitted to any of MMD's port offices within 24 hours of the result being obtained.
Masters must interview COVID-19 patients to obtain any relevant information, including details of where they visited in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms and such necessary information. Each case must be recorded in the ship's medical log book.
Masters should take all required precautionary measures when disembarking COVID-19 case patients. To avoid contact with other persons on board, COVID-19 patients should wear face masks and the personnel escorting them must wear suitable PPE. On completion of the disembarkation process, the ship's affected area must be disinfected and re-cleaned.
Masters must ensure that all areas of the ship are cleaned and disinfected using hot water, soap or using a cleaning agent such as sodium hypochlorite to ensure that the vessel's level of hygiene is always at an optimum level.
Shipowners must supply constant and regular COVID-19 situation reports from the WHO and the Malaysian Ministry of Health to their ships.
A valid seafarer's employment agreement (SEA) should remain in force until repatriation. If any SEAs have expired, they should be extended or new ones issued. Shipowners must ensure that seafarers are repatriated safely at the first available opportunity, subject to the current instructions which apply.
An SEA can be extended up to a maximum of 13 months as recommended by the International Transport Workers' Federation, subject to the seafarer's consent regarding their fatigue, health and mental well-being.
Shipowners must confirm that insurance or other financial security is in place for additional costs pending repatriation (eg, isolation), medical care and any costs and expenses of crew transfer for COVID-19 patients given that the shipowners remain liable for related costs.
Where seafarers are granted permission to disembark or arrive at any ports in Malaysia or enter the country in another way, they must self-quarantine for 14 days and restrict their movement.
The MMD has also issued the following instructions:
For further information on this topic please contact Rajasingam Gothandapani at Shearn Delamore & Co by telephone (+60 3 2070 0644) or email (email@example.com). The Shearn Delamore & Co website can be accessed at www.shearndelamore.com.
The materials contained on this website are for general information purposes only and are subject to the disclaimer.
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