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Tuesday, July 7, 2020 

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has endorsed a series of recommendations designed to ensure seafarers can access medical care ashore quickly and safely in the face of the Covid-19 emergency.

Receiving medical care ashore can be a matter of life or death for seafarers who fall ill while working on ships. But since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been cases of seafarers being denied permission to go ashore, even when they presented medical issues that were life-threatening but not related to Covid-19, including a stroke.

The Recommendations for port and coastal States on the prompt disembarkation of seafarers for medical care ashore during the pandemic seek to address this issue. They provide guidance to the relevant authorities in port and coastal States so they can ensure seafarers’ access to medical care in any medical situation. . The Recommendations were developed by ICS, IAPH, BIMCO, IFSMA, Intertanko, P&I Clubs, CLIA, Intercargo, InterManager, IPTA, IMCA, Interferry, FONASBA, ITF and WSC, in consultative status with IMO.

The recommendations include advice on monitoring for signs or symptoms of COVID-19 prior to disembarkation, isolation of suspected or confirmed cases, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and minimizing the exposure to infrastructures and personnel in the port during disembarkation and transfer to a medical facility.

Kitack Lim said: “Seafarers are at the heart of everything IMO does. In the darkest hours of the pandemic, they have been selflessly delivering the goods we all need. But their own health and wellbeing are as important as that of anyone else. Now is time for governments around the world to deliver for seafarers, by ensuring they can access medical care without delay, whenever they need it.”

Under the MLC, port States must ensure that seafarers on board ships in their territory who are in need of immediate medical care are given access to medical facilities on shore. The obligation to render assistance to seafarers in distress, including medical assistance, is also enshrined in the SOLAS, SAR, Salvage and Facilitation conventions, as well as in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Prompt and efficient disembarkation of seafarers to receive medical care ashore is essential not only for the seafarers’ health, but also for the maintenance of the global supply chain.

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