A number of EU nations have released guidelines for the shipping industry in response to the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West African countries.
In Spain, where the first case of an individual contracting Ebola outside of Africa occurred, all vessels must submit their Health Maritime Declaration prior to arrival at port. Health authorities will take all necessary precautions for ships that have travelled through affected countries or have visited them lately. Masters must report crew member illness, and any sick individual must complete a form documenting the countries he has visited.
Vessels arriving at ports in the Netherlands must complete and deliver a Maritime Declaration of Health. All measures taken on board should be noted on the ship sanitation control certificate.
When an individual is expected of having contracted Ebola, immediate expert medical opinion should be sought. The event must also be reported to the next port of call as soon as possible.
If an individual onboard is suspected of having Ebola, authorities will need to arrange medical evacuation or special arrangements for disembarking and hospitalising the ill person.
Any passengers, crew members or staff who are identified through contract tracing as having been in contact with the individual should be assessed for exposure issues. Those at high risk should self-monitor temperature for 21 days.
The country is also advising that there may be delays for vessels coming into ports as crew may be medically checked and the ship will also be disinfected. All crew will stay in quarantine while the outcome of any medical check is undergone.
For France, the measures differ depending on the port. For Le Havre MHD/ISPS must be sent to the agent before a ship’s arrival to be examined by the port authority. Any vessel that has been at a port in West Africa for 30 days must have waste incinerated by a specialised collected. Possible Ebola cases will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
In Rouen and Brest, the MHD will only be requested by vessels coming from West African ports. No other restrictions are currently in place. Whereas for Montoir, Donges and St Nazaire vessels must submit the MDH and the last ten ports of call document 48 hours before arrival. If the port authority accepts the MDH and the Master has nothing to report a vessel will automatically be able to enter port.
If the Master does declare a health problem hen the vessel will not be authorised to enter port and a special procedure will apply. Port authorities, the French army and medical shipping departments will diagnose the ill individual/s.
In the UK the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is currently monitoring vessels that have visited ports in countries where the Ebola virus is present which intend to transit through UK waters or stop at UK ports.
All vessels which are deemed of interest will be contacted by the coastguard when entering the country waters to determine the health status of the vessel. If one oft hess vessels radios for medical advice, search and rescue response, or a medical evacuation, HM coastguard will notify SAR units before a response is given. In this way the authorities can prepare and manage the situation with caution.
When a vessel is suspected of carrying the Ebola virus, the Master will be asked to divert the ship to the nearest suitable port so that the individual presenting symptoms can be taken off the ship and given medical care in a controlled environment.