What if cargo-ship crew is infected by coronavirus?

- By Sagar Shere February 19, 2020

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Coronavirus is a global threat and if seafarers aboard commercial oceangoing cargo ships start to become infected, there’s major trouble ahead for the global transport network.

An outbreak among the crew members is not just beyond human cost but can cause vessels to be quarantined upon arrival or denied entry into scheduled unloading ports and would compel vessel operators to refuse to enter ports to load cargo if the risk is perceived to be too great.

Coronavirus outbreak among seafarers is likely to become public knowledge fairly quickly if it happens. The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) union represents the crew member and defends crew aggressively is in constant contact with crewmembers and is highly open with the press.

Assistant Secretary of the union’s seafarer section, Fabrizio Barcellona was a speaker on a special webinar on how the coronavirus affects shipping held on Friday by Capital Link, the New York-based investor relations and advisory firm.

Diamond Princess crew members have been infected while the cruise ship has been quarantined in Japan. Clarifying about the infected crew aboard non-cruise ships, Barcellona said, “At the moment, we are not aware of any seafarers on non-cruise ships being infected.

Regarding the obligations of the shipowner toward the crew, he said, “Crew has the right to protection and medical care. We think there are arguments to be made that seafarers have the right to not proceed with a ship into a port that has been declared at risk of coronavirus. If the authorities prevent foreigners from coming in by air or by road or train, we don’t see why a seafarer should be treated any differently.