COVID-19 Precautions Issued for Marine Transport Industry in Turkey
The COVID-19, a new type of Coronavirus, has spread aggressively to many countries around the world after first appearing at the Republic of China in December 2019. As the speed and effect of the epidemic reaches an important dimension, the World Health Organization (WHO) described the epidemic as a "pandemic" and increased the global risk level form "high" to "very high" on 11 March 2020.
This outbreak affected every industry as well as the marine industry and Governments began to issue many precautions including but not limited to close their ports temporarily or take serious measures against cruise ships and freighters approaching their ports to slow down the spread process of the infection.
In order to prevent these impacts in Turkey, the measures taken against COVID-19 within the frame of the marine industry first announced on March 14, 2020, and first published on March 17, 2020, via the circular numbered 2020/2 by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and will continue to be taken.
The 2020/2 numbered circular includes the following measures;
To gather information from the Turkish or foreign-flagged vessels that about to enter to Turkish ports regarding the last ten ports the vessel has been and if China, Iran, Italy, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore ports are among them, or the vessel has admitted the citizens of aforesaid countries in the last fourteen days, no contact will be allowed with the vessel for 14 days of quarantine and shall anchor outside the port area. The permission to berth shall be granted after the inspection by the Directorate General of Health Services for Borders And Coasts of Turkey is done within the harbour anchorage and Clean Bill of Health certificate is issued stating that there are no obstacles for the vessel to enter to Turkey by the coastal health authorities
For vessels that called prohibited countries in the last 14 days, no disembarkation is allowed at Turkish Ports for the crew (As of 24 March 2020, the list the prohibited countries is as follows: Republic Of China, Iran, Iraq, Italy, South Korea, Germany, France, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Egypt, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Bulgaria, Kuwait, Bangladesh, Mongolia, TRNC, Ukraine, Kosovo, Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Oman, Slovenia, Moldova, Djibouti, Equator, Canada, India, Hungary, Guatemala, Kenya Poland. Sudan, Chad, Philippines, Latvia, Taiwan, Peru, Sri Lanka, Niger, Tunisia, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Finland, Angola, Czech Republic, Dominican, Cameroon, Montenegro, Colombia, North Macedonia, Mauritania, Nepal, Portugal, Panama.)
An amendment is foreseen in the Port State Control1 percentage that is to be maintained in the Turkish Republic controlled ports and a new rate of 15% is to be applied for 3 months from the date of the Circular.
The requirement for all Turkish and foreign-flagged vessels performing international voyages to give 24-hours notice via the Single Window System prior to entering the harbour area has been increased to 48 hours;
All personnel that embarks Turkish or foreign-flagged vessels for survey or inspection purposes to use the supplied protective gear throughout the survey/inspection;
The monthly and quarterly pre-survey inspections of the Turkish flagged vessels to be carried out at 2-month and 4-month periods, and the vessel's pre-survey period to be extended up to 6 months in the event in the last 14 days, the nationals of those countries at risk or an individual who has been in one of these countries, embarked the vessel;
The documents/certificates submitted by the agents via the Single Window System for the entry/departure of vessels to/from shore facilities and shipyards to be kept at the agents' offices and when necessary, to be submitted to the authorities upon request
The measures announced on March 16 were followed by the measures conveyed in the guideline letter titled "Seafarers' Transactions and Corona Virus (COVID-19) Precautions" which was sent to the port authorities and seafarers commission by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure on 17 March.
These measures include the following:
Turkish Strait pilots require all personnel and crew to put on masks before the pilot's embarking on the vessel. The deck officers are also required to put on masks when transiting through the Istanbul Straits.
Applications made in person to the port authorities related to all seafarer operations will be accepted only on Fridays and on other days of the week, they will be received through the Seafarers’ Electronic Application System.
Also, upon the determination that the seafarers who want to make an appointment for the exams have come from abroad in the last fourteen days, they will not be given an appointment, and among the ones who already have an appointment, those who have been abroad from the last fourteen days will not be admitted to the exams, provided that the exam rights are reserved.
Furthermore, as a part of new measures, the venue capacities set for seafaring exams were reduced by half and amateur seaman and the short-distance radio operator proficiency training and exams were suspended until the next instruction.
If Turkish seafarers whose qualifications, seafarer’s wallets, and STCW documents have already expired while on board, cannot return to Turkey due to virus measures, the validity of their documents will be extended for three months from the date of expiration upon the application to the port authorities by the shipowner or operator with a petition including a copy of the employment contract, regardless of whether the ship is Turkish or foreign-flagged and a document regarding this extension will be given to the ones concerned.
The guideline published on the protection of the health of seafarers on coronavirus also included advisory measures. According to these advisory measures the seafarers are expected to take the below actions to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19:
Not to work onboard a vessel while having symptoms of fever or respiratory disease
To keep 180cm distance when interacting with sick persons and to wear protective respirator before interacting with any other person, to minimize as much possible any contact with others,
To wash hands as frequently as possible, if not possible, to use a hand disinfectant containing 60%-95% alcohol
Covering mouth and nose in case of sneezing and coughing
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Number of the seafarers and port staff shall be minimized as much as possible to minimize the risk of spread,
The port staff in the country that are over the age of 60, pregnant women, breast-feeding, disabled and other members of the disadvantaged groups determined by the Ministry of Health to be deemed in administrative leave (those with immune problems, cancer patients, chronic respiratory patients, obesity and diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, organ transplants, chronic patients)
In addition to all these, Directorate General of Health Services for Borders and Coasts of Turkish Ministry of Health announced new precautions regarding to disinfection at International Vessels and Points of Entry on 07.04.2020 which includes;
Considering that it is extremely important to struggle with the pandemic to continue the transportation of goods, containers, and dorsey by sea and since the carriage of passengers during such voyages put the shipping industry in a dangerous position, in a situation where passengers are required to be on board the Directorate General of Maritime Affairs of Ministery of Transport and Infrastructure. must be informed to be able to coordinate with other relevant ministries (Health, Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs), the measures must also be taken to prevent the ships to sail from foreign ports without the required authorization is taken by Directorate General of Maritime Affairs from relevant institutions and the sanitary measures must be initiated against agencies violating those measures in accordance with the section 14 of the Regulation on the Shipping Agencies and other relevant regulations.
The practice requiring the disinfection of the navigation bridge of the vessels which arrives to Turkey’s coasts and subject to pilotage before the maritime pilot is on board the vessel will continue to be carried out via agencies and it is at the discretion of the Directorate General of Health Services for Borders and Coasts of Turkey to decide whether a disinfection operation which will be conducted by competent firms via agencies is required to be carried out at other living spaces of the vessel in question.
The preliminary survey which is conducted by Turkish port authorities on the vessels flying Turkish flags will be carried out at 6 (six) months intervals in the event that the assigned person of the vessel at the coast had an awareness training at Transport and Infrastructure and at 3 (three) months intervals for other vessels.
Suspension of the port state inspections which are carried out on foreign-flagged vessels. Above mentioned inspection practices will be conducted in the described way until 30 April 2020 Thursday.
The vessels in which there are confirmed or potential cases of coronavirus and the vessels which comes from a foreign port and arrives to shipyards for maintenance must be disinfected prior to the maintenance.
Considering the fact that competent firms may not have access to international points of entry due to the travel restrictions imposed by Turkey and the firms are facing a heavy workload, some difficulties may be experienced by them in arranging the required sterilization and disinfection operations. It is held under section 16 of The Directive On The Operation of Sterilization At The Internationally Employed Vessels And At The Points Of Entry that: “In a situation where it is not possible to find a competent sterilization firm near the place in which the international vessel or the point of entry needed to be immediately sterilized is located, the sterilization service, provided that the information about the situation is given to the Directorate General, may be received from the firms to which an authorization document was given by the Directorate of Maritime Affairs”. In this context, during the COVID-19 pandemic, sterilization and disinfection operations at international vessels and international points of entry will be carried out primarily by the firms authorized by Directorate General of Maritime Affairs, if needed, in the knowledge of the relevant Medical Examination Centre, by the firms authorized by the Provincial Health Directorates.
The disinfection operations conducted at the vessels employed internationally must be carried out after the vessel in question procures a ship sanitation certificate.
During the disinfection operation, the disinfection methods and products stated under “The Table On The Products Recommended For Surface Cleaning And Disinfection And Their Characteristics” which can be found at the COVID-19 Guidance, adopted by Turkish Health Ministry's Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, must be followed and used.
To conclude; it is aimed to control this epidemic COVID 19 by announcing new measures almost every day. This epidemic causes great economic and social damage to all industries and countries, and following these measures is vital to prevent the outbreak from becoming widespread and for all industries, particularly the maritime industry, to be able to end this process with minimal damage as soon as possible.
Author: Mehmet Can Alataş