In light of the ongoing global developments surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, IBIA is looking to offer practical advice to our members to mitigate the risk of infection during bunkering operations. Given the international nature of shipping, the contact between ship and shore personnel during the bunkering process involves a possible risk of spreading the virus.
The key issues for any personnel involved in a bunker delivery – barge crew, ship crew, surveyors or agents – are to minimize touching surfaces which may be contaminated. The virus is unlikely to persist on bunker hoses, flanges, valve wheels etc. and in any case, gloves should always be worn in these circumstances.
Paper, laminated plastic and polished surfaces may retain the virus for longer and hence pose some transmission risk (bunker receipts, check lists, safety cards etc.) so after touching these, wash your hands. The USA Centre for Disease Control says “It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
Individual ports and regional bunkering sectors are offering their own specific advice and guidance as to what is applicable in their particular area regarding acceptable practices during this time, but key points for consideration regarding bunkering operations include:
- Be fully conversant with your company’s policies surrounding requirements for COVID -19.
- Enquire with your bunker supplier / survey company / agents / other relevant parties regarding their policies for physical interactions during bunkering.
- Prior knowledge of the local requirements at the next port of call is essential for all vessels and on-board crew. Certain jurisdictions are setting severe penalties for failing to follow their recently implemented rules.
Below is some general advice to avoid spreading the coronavirus:
- The primary transmission route for the virus is contact between aerosol droplets containing the virus and your eyes, nose and mouth.
- This could be from touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands after your hands have been in contact with contaminated material.
- Hand hygiene is vital: use effective hand washing routines, or hand sanitizers. Remember that if you are wearing gloves, they may have been in contact with a contaminated surface so avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with the gloves.
- Close contact or interaction with a person carrying, or suspected of carrying the virus needs to be kept to a minimum, try to keep a sensible distance apart (1 or 2 metres) especially in confined spaces.
- Always cough or sneeze into a tissue and throw it into a safe receptacle after use. If you don’t have a tissue available, use the crook of your arm to avoid contaminating others.
Further general advice regarding COVID -19 can be found on the World Health Organisation (WHO) website: https://www.who.int/
Advisory from Singapore on COVID-19 precautionary measures
Below are examples of advice provided by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and a bunker survey company in Singapore.
MPA has issued Port Marine Circular No. 09 of 2020: PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES TO MINIMISE RISK OF COMMUNITY SPREAD OF THE CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2019 (COVID-19) IN SINGAPORE. https://www.mpa.gov.sg/web/portal/home/port-of-singapore/circulars-and-notices/detail/01af8316-12ef-4f4a-99c8-92f1e9ed17de
Procedures recommended by a bunker survey company in Singapore for surveyors attending bunkerings to safeguard the wellbeing of their employees and the on-board crew:
- Take temperature 1 hour before departing base
- Arrive at the pier with mask on
- Sanitize hands when departing the pier
- Sanitize hands once on board
- Check with highest rank ship representative available if any crew is not feeling well and the ship’s last port of call
- If need be, perform calculations in open air. Avoid entering accommodation.
This is just one example of the steps being taken by different active parties within the supply chain in a particular port/region. It is vital to note that procedures and expectations elsewhere may differ.