IMO cautions against unnecessary delays to ships amid coronavirus outbreak

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has issued a circular letter advising member states against unnecessary delays to ships even as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to spread.

Circular Letter No.4204 dated February 19 urges flag state authorities, port state authorities and control regimes, companies and shipmasters to cooperate and ensure that, where appropriate, “passengers can be embarked and disembarked, cargo operations can occur, ships can enter and depart shipyards for repair and survey, stores and supplies can be loaded, certificates can be issued and crews can be exchanged.”

The principles of avoiding unnecessary restrictions or delay on port entry to ships, persons and property on board are contained in articles I and V and section 6 of the annex to IMO’s Facilitation Convention, it further said.

Moreover, the IMO pointed to several IMO instruments that may contain relevant provisions, including the following:
the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974;
the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973;
the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004;
the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978; and
resolution A.1119(30), Procedures for port State control, 2017.

In addition, IMO noted that the International Labour Organization (ILO) has stressed the need to prioritize the health and safety of seafarers in the context of the evolving coronavirus outbreak.

“Under the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, flag States must ensure that all seafarers on ships flying their flag are covered by adequate measures for the protection of their health and that they have access to prompt and adequate medical care whilst working on board,” said ILO.

The Convention also requires port states to 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.

COVID-19 is a severe public health challenge that requires understanding and close cooperation among all member states to overcome challenges to the implementation and enforcement of the relevant IMO instruments, said IMO.

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