The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported an outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Wuhan, Hubei province, China on 31 Dec 2019. As of 11 March 2020, COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic by the WHO.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Warning-Level 3 travel health notice, which is a recommendation to avoid any non-essential travel.

A number of countries have implemented travel restrictions or bans, country wide lockdowns, and mandatory 14 day self-isolation or quarantine to try and prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

All shipstaff and travellers should be made aware of the risks, symptoms and the actions to take.

The Club is monitoring the situation, and our website Focus page is updated regularly. Members are advised to review the WHO and local public health authority websites for the latest advice, and to follow appropriate health advice and guidelines. Members are also advised to check with local correspondents and agents for the latest position.


Typical symptoms include fever, cough, difficulty in breathing and fatigue. Symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure.

Authorities have confirmed that this virus can spread from person to person.

There is currently no evidence that influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

General precautions include:

  • Wash hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, particularly when you get home or into work
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
  • Consider respiratory facemasks and protective eyewear
  • Avoid close contact with ill people, particularly people suffering from acute respiratory infections


The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has issued Circular Letter No.4204/Add.6, dated 27 March 2020, to all IMO Member States and relevant national authorities, with a preliminary list of recommendations on the facilitation of maritime trade during the COVID-19 pandemic.

China MSA has issued a “Notice to the Master on Recommended Measures to Address COVID-19 Risks on Board”.

Our Correspondents in China issued Circulars on 29/01/2020 , 03/02/202005/02/202019/02/202010/03/2020 and 21/03/2020 with updated advice on the situation in China.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has issued new guidance for the global shipping industry to help combat the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The WHO and IMO have issued a joint statement calling on member government states to respect the requirements of “ free pratique”  for ships under the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005, article 28). The statement reiterates the principles of proper care for all travellers and avoiding unnecessary restrictions or delays, with due regard and full respect for the dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of everyone.

Law Firm MFB have provided a brief commentary on some of the issues that may arise from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic.

The following organisations also have useful pages on their websites dedicated to the Coronavirus. They are regularly updated with port circulars/other related documents for various countries.


Enhanced health screening measures, including the use of thermal scanners, are now in place for travellers from areas with high numbers of COVID-19, who may also be required to complete a health declaration form and report any symptoms or potential exposure upon arrival. Port Authorities have also introduced enhanced screening measures for crew and passengers on board ships arriving from or via these countries.

Persons who have recently visited areas where COVID-19 is prevalent may also be required to self-isolate for a period of at least 14 days. Immigration and local health authorities may implement additional restrictions, such as enforced hospitalization of infected persons.

Requests for Free Pratique are now required well in advance of arrival, and Masters are required to report any indication that a crew member or passenger may have any symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, severe coughing, breathing difficulties etc.). Quarantine officers may also board the ship for additional verification checks.

Details of measures in place for certain ports/countries are given below, and Members can contact the Club for additional information.


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