The corona pandemic continues to affect vessel operations worldwide. We have had a number of cases over the past months in which crewmembers were infected resulting in the quarantine of crewmembers and the vessel in question. In many of these cases, the authorities quarantined the vessel and the infected crewmembers were ordered to stay in isolation for 10 days in accordance with the European guidelines.
This often raises the question as to whether infected crew members should isolate themselves on board or whether there are also opportunities to isolate themselves ashore and allow the vessel to sail again. Isolation on board a vessel involves a minimum period of 10 days of inability to sail and there is a risk of further spreading of the virus on board of the vessel, which in turn may result in an extension of the quarantine. In addition, crew members who have not tested positive but have been in contact with infected crew members often have to isolate themselves as well.
In many cases, the only way to eliminate the virus on board and allow the vessel to sail again is to replace the entire crew. This obviously depends on whether a crew change is even authorised by the authorities and whether it is the best option from a costs perspective. The shipping company in question will have to consider whether 10/14 days of idling outweighs the costs incurred in replacing the crew, the obligations towards the charterers and the urgency to get the cargo to its destination. The most important costs items here are loss of earnings (hire) and the crew related costs (incl. accommodation and double wages). In addition, the vessel will need to be disinfected during the crew change. Depending on the extent of all costs involved and the willingness of the authorities to cooperate, a crew change may not be an option.
In the event a crew change is an option, a vessel can usually depart much earlier. For example, we recently received a notification from one of our Members that several crew members on board the vessel in question had tested positive for corona-virus. The authorities had initially required the vessel to remain in port for 10 days and not to leave until everyone else had tested negative again. Fortunately, with the help of our local correspondent, we were able to reach agreement with the authorities and to find a suitable location to accommodate all crewmember at reasonable costs. In the end, the vessel was able to depart without any restrictions within 5 days.
The risk of infection remains high and the consequences on board can be considerable. The advice is therefore to prevent infection of crewmembers as much as possible by following the recommended prevention guidelines. In the event of infection on board, it is important to inform the Club in time so that the consequences can be limited as much as possible.