Seafarers urged to take extra precaution vs Ebola

Posted at 08/11/14 1:53 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino seafarers are being urged to take extra precaution, amid the spread of the killer Ebola virus in parts of west Africa.

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration chief Hans Leo J. Cacdac has issued guidelines for seafarers and manning agencies in taking precaution against infection of the Ebola virus.

At present, there is already a deployment ban on newly-hired workers for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone due to the spread of the Ebola virus. Ebola has already claimed nearly 1,000 lives in west Africa in the worst outbreak in four decades.

The POEA guidelines were issued for the seafarers' welfare and protection, especially since they have to interact with shore-based personnel who come on board their ships.

Under the POEA guidelines, all shipping principals, or employers, with ships operating or calling on Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone ports, shall ensure that seafarers are properly provided with working gears, including personal protective equipment, such as masks, gloves, and goggles where necessary, to limit the possibility of exposure or contamination with the Ebola virus.

"There will be no shore leave for seafarers and no crew change in the ports of these countries in the meantime," said Cacdac.

The POEA guidelines also note that it will be the ship master and/or the designated ship medical officer's responsibility to report any case involving a crew who become symptomatic of Ebola virus.

"They shall report those who have fever, headache, intense weakness, joint and muscle pains, and sore throat to their principal/employer who, in turn, are required to coordinate with appropriate international marine medical providers to seek their guidance on ways to manage an Ebola virus disease contamination on board," he said.

In the advisory, the POEA had requested principals/employers and manning agencies to disseminate the following recommendations from the International Maritime Employers' Council (IMEC), International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) to their ships and hired seafarers prior to deployment:

The Master must ensure that the crew are aware of the risks, how the virus can be spread and how to mitigate the risk;

The ISPS Code requirements on ensuring that unauthorized personnel are not allowed to board the ship should be strictly enforced throughout the duration of the ship's stay in port; and

After departure, the crew should be aware of the symptoms and report any occurring symptoms immediately to the persons/authorities in charge of medical are onboard.

The POEA also requires principals/employers and manning agencies to report any incident of Ebola virus contamination on any of their ships.

"The report, containing complete details of the crew affected and the actions taken by the company, shall be submitted through e-mail to the Office of the POEA Administrator, who in turn shall provide copies of the report to the Departments of Health and Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration," Cacdac said.