Risk assessment and emergency preparedness in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Published: 07/04/2020

All companies, ships and seafarers must follow the advice and guidelines provided by the health authorities and Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding contamination, risks, diseases, treatment and assessments with regard to travels or ports of call.

The NMA suggests that these practices, as a minimum, should be followed internationally as well. Additionally, national provisions laid down by the relevant coastal State and port State will apply. The company should contact the local authorities to establish which procedures and practices must be followed.

Risk assessment requirements 

Regulations of 1 January 2005 No. 8 on the working environment, health and safety of persons working on board ship include provisions on risk assessment related to the safety or health of persons working on board. The distinct risk of being infected by COVID-19 must be addressed when organising or planning work, cf. sections 2-2 and 11-4.

The COVID-19 virus is a biological agent, and the company shall perform a special risk assessment based on all available information, including facts and recommendations from competent international authorities.  

Such a risk assessment will be updated to reflect any changed circumstances and form part of the ship’s safety management system.

What should be included in the risk assessment?

Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some factors that should be given priority by the company and ship when carrying out a risk assessment (the list is not exhaustive and for information only). 

Measures related to information and crew training 

  • contamination control training on board;
  • information on symptoms of COVID-19 disease;
  • information on emergency preparedness measures and contamination control strategy if crew members or passengers develop symptoms of disease;
  • training in contamination control measures for crew members who are in contact with passengers

Measures related to passengers and others not working on board

  • assessment of the risk of being infected by passengers and others who are not working on board before they are given access to the ship;
  • information to external parties regarding contamination control measures that apply on board during the coronavirus pandemic;
  • measures to prevent people from gathering in numbers in accordance with recommendations from the health authorities;
  • need for marks/signs for informative purposes.

Measures related to the organisation of work

  • organisation of meals and work on board to reduce a large number of people coming together at the same time;
  • sufficient number of crew members to maintain operational functions in a situation of infected cases;
  • special measures or protection for employees belonging to a risk group;
  • undergoing crew changes taking into account the risk of contamination.

Measures related to contamination prevention, hygiene and cleaning

  • adequate supply of hygiene products and disinfectants; 
  • access to personal protective equipment beyond the standard content of the medicine chest and practical training in the use of equipment;
  • enhanced cleaning procedures and disinfection of common contact surfaces;
  • procedures for handling infected equipment, such as eating utensils, waste from cabins, beddings, personal protective equipment, etc. 
  • special hygiene measures at common sanitary facilities.

Emergency preparedness plan 

An emergency preparedness plan shall be prepared for situations which may cause exposure of biological agents classified as group 3 or group 4. The COVID-19 virus is such a biological agent.

The emergency preparedness plan shall be prepared based on the risk assessment and shall contain, inter alia: 

  • information on special hazards which may arise in case of a contamination incident; 
  • guidance for notification of incidents and measures to be taken to manage the situation; 
  • guidance for use of external assistance or rescue service. 

If a crew member develops symptoms of COVID-19, the ship needs a plan for how to isolate and care for the person. The company must also have a plan for the evacuation of infected persons and keeping their next of kin informed.  

In the event of a contamination situation, the emergency preparedness plan shall be put into effect immediately. Persons working on board shall as soon as possible be informed about the situation, the cause of the exposure and the measures taken. 

Emergency preparedness plans shall be available for those who work on board and external rescue service, if applicable. Drills in accordance with the emergency preparedness plan shall be conducted at regular intervals. 

The emergency preparedness plan shall form part of the ship's safety management system.

Useful links

on contamination control, emergency measures and notification procedures in the context of the COVID-19 situation:  

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