Health and safety

Port authorities failing to give seafarers basic medical care amid Covid-19 pandemic

23 March 2020

Unwell seafarers are being denied basic medical care by port authorities struggling to deal with the spread of the Covid-19 virus and are being forced to rely on radio medical advice.

Nautilus has been told of three vessels with suspected cases of Covid-19 onboard that docked in the Middle East on Sunday. Despite knowing about the sick men ahead of docking it took at least six hours for one crew member to be allowed to leave his ship by ambulance and is now in a hospital having tests.

Nautilus understands that regardless of test results, the crew member will not return to the ship.

Remaining crew members onboard the vessel are exceedingly concerned about their own health and potential spread of the virus, Nautilus was told be a source who asked to remain anonymous for fears of reprisal.

'We are basically in lockdown and we are trying to self-isolate onboard and observe social distancing,' the source said. 'It's not very practical onboard a ship. Even wearing masks and gloves is awkward. We do a lot of hand washing and cleaning of all accommodation.'

The source said that shipping companies are having problems convincing port authorities to give seafarers basic medical care.

On one of the other ships, there are two crew members who are unwell and would normally go ashore to see a doctor. 'This is not allowed, and we are relying on radio medical advice to care for each other.' 

Adding to the crew's stress is the knowledge that there are no other crews available to relieve them, with the operating company suspending all crew changes and flight bans in place in most countries.

'We have no idea what will happen if [the test] comes back positive.

'None of us are telling families as we do not want to worry them.' 

Nautilus members who are concerned or are experiencing difficulties related to the coronavirus outbreak are advised to contact their industrial organiser for assistance.


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