Guidelines for ships in view of Omicron variant

06 Dec 2021 / India

In view of the Omicron alert as variant of concern as declared by WHO and the possible high transmissibility of this variant of COVID-19, [India’s] Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has given guidelines for Ports to be under strict vigil.

The ships will be under strict pre-arrival scrutiny for planning the inspection of the ships with 3 scenarios coming to our ports will be considered as high risk category ships (AS GIVEN IN THE CIRCULAR). These ships will be cleared for port operations with strict compliance of all the Officials, Stevedores following the PHO instructions of PPE, Minimal/essential numbers only on port operations, by ensuring the non-contact port operations SOPs for all type of ship cargo operations. If the existing SOPs are followed strictly the chance of spread of COVID-19 omicron variant of concern, can be prevented and Port operations can go unhindered and smoothly.

As we have the omicron variant of concern cases being reported in India too and may increase in the coming days here; it is also very important to prevent the spread of same to ship crew too, so the strict PPE use, COVID-19 Appropriate behavior, prevent unauthorised visitors, adequate Hand disinfection facilities, toilet facilities, cleanliness, water availability are all followed at Jetties, Port areas, IEC circulated to all again to continue the learned COVID-19 appropriate behavior & protocols. The Port and Port users are adviced to check again departments concerned in port operations viz, Pilots, Tugs, Mooring Crew, Crane Operators, Dock Labour staff, Agents in boarding, stevedores team head, surveyors, other Port departments, Port Users, CHAs are asked to follow on PPE stocks, proper use/disposal by them, the COVID-19 Vaccination status and encouraged to complete the schedule if incomplete.

Crew Changes will have to follow the same SOP very strictly as they will be followed for new strain among crew who may become positive on Sign off. Sign On crew are to follow the new entry guidelines of India and at risk countries crew after joining will not be able to recheck RT PCR on 8th day so they have to follow the Crew Isolation for 7 days & Crew Changes SOP very strictly for 14 days with proper PPE. If the ships have Antigen testing facilities they may check on 8th day and follow the crew changes SOP, PPE use, COVID-19 SOP for early detection of symptoms and isolation, treatment plans of their Company, reach nearest Port for assistance.

Immigration Rules to be followed and ensure back up plans on the possibilities of the sign on crew catching infection and possible longer stay in India also if they become positive. Try to follow the travel plan to sign on the day of sailing as much as possible and have greater transit visa time. Ask them to follow strict PPE/face shield use/Hand sanitizer during travel. Ensure the crew are follow the travel SOP on single vehicle/ big vehicle with separate entry for driver/crew, non-interaction with driver/others till they reach hotel quarantine and until joining the vessel.

Ships must be stocked with PPE as per SOP-8 well before their arrival.

All the non essential ship inspections, repairs work are to be avoided for time being till we have more clear picture on the variant, if the visitors follow the SOP for any work on board greater than 1 hour we can ensure the safe essential inspections also.

It is our endeavor to assist the smooth Port operations and also ensuring the health of Crew, Pilot, Agents, Authorities, Stevedores, essential services visitors. Kindly follow the same SOPs strictly which will ensure no spread of infection even if this variant takes foothold, as we have been practicing for the past 2 years. I have recently started noticing among us there is a slight non compliance of Covid appropriate behavior and overconfidence on the reduced infection levels in community. Now is the time not to loosen our guard as we are better placed with good vaccination and lesser community infection to prevent this new variant becoming dominant in transmission of COVID-19.

(For further details and updates, as well as information about operations in India, contact GAC India at [email protected])

Source: Government of India Ministry of Health & Family Welfare Circular No.PHO-C/COVID-19/2021/325 dated 4 December 2021

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