Dear Captains and Crew,
As you will be aware, on 11th March 2020 the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the COVID-19 (also referred to as the Coronavirus, SARS-Cov-2 or similar) outbreak as a pandemic.
Whilst measures of differing severity have already been adopted worldwide (including, border closures, flight/travel restrictions, mandatory quarantine periods and similar), and doubtless further developments will follow in the future. Come what may Swisspath Yacht Management remains concerned about the health and well-being of all crew aboard its managed fleet, as well as any crew travelling locally or internationally for work, and all guests and permitted visitors.
Sources of information
To update the information in, and to expand upon the Circulars uploaded on 13th March 2020 and 18 March 2020, we have sought to provide some further guidance gleaned from currently available resources (including, but not limited to, WHO, the International Chamber of Shipping and BIMCO) in terms of adopting adequate COVID-19 preventative measures and what to do in the, hopefully unlikely, event of actual or suspected infection. We therefore ask all Captains to circulate these amongst the crew (including all crew currently on leave) and, as appropriate, guests and permitted visitors.
Already there is evidence that the outbreak of COVID-19 is having noticeable effects across the industry, but the situation is fluid and changing by the day.
Captains and crew are therefore strongly encouraged to use and strictly follow this guidance, along with that issued by other organisations and authorities local to where you are positioned. This should be modified to take into account the latest information provided relating to your situation. A list of useful links appears on the last page of this Fleet Advisory.
Above all else, awareness is key to COVID-19 prevention – it applies to crew, guests and permitted visitors alike (as may be appropriate in the circumstances). All yachts should therefore implement preventative and precautionary measures to reduce exposure to, and transmission of, the disease, including:
• Wash hands thoroughly and frequently and apply other measures of strict personal hand hygiene (e.g. the use of alcohol-based hand gel disinfectant where soap hand washing is unavailable);
• Exercise due care when handling cash, as it frequently changes hands (same goes for deliveries, courier packages and so on);
• Maintain a safe social distance – WHO recommends at least 1 metre; and
• Follow general WHO guidance (see link below).
• Ensure that there is adequate food, medicines, and fresh water supplies aboard the yacht (subject to any capacity / storage restrictions), particularly in any COVID-19 affected areas, to preclude any hardships that may arise due to limited or delayed victualling;
• Implement frequent disinfection cleaning processes of contact surfaces (e.g. door frames and handles, keyboards for instrument and equipment interfaces, handrails including gangways, ladders, staircases, areas accessed by guests/visitors etc.);
• Limit or restrict access to yacht when calling at COVID-19 affected areas (e.g. refuse entry to anyone appearing ill, mandate washing or alcohol hand sanitizing regimes for any visitors at the base of the gangway, restrict visitors to essential areas only);
• Implement frequent health checks of crew by medical officer on board (temperature reading and general condition of crew) or, where a medical officer is not on board, designate a crew member to undertake these tasks; and
• Implement procedures for isolation of infected or suspected individuals onboard (including, but not limited to, communications with the owner and the manager’s DPA (designated person ashore), port agent, local health authorities, and designated shore-side medical coverage provider as applicable).
• At the discretion of the Captain, the yacht may be placed under voluntary precautionary isolation to prevent infection spreading on board.
Yachts calling at ports in COVID-19 affected areas should consider whether the ship’s security plan (as applicable) is correctly implemented, and the crew should be extra vigilant for any persons trying to board the yacht.
As countries start and/or continue imposing restrictions on their general populations this will inevitably impact on the operations of ports and the yachts within these areas including:
• Delayed port clearance;
• Prevention of crew or guests from embarking or disembarking (preventing shore leave and crew changes);
• Prevention of discharging or loading of stores, or taking on fuel, water, food and supplies; and
• Imposition of quarantine or refusal of port entry to yachts (in extreme cases).
The reality is that all parties have little choice but to adhere to these national and local restrictions due to the serious concern about COVID-19 and the potential risk to public health.
Together with the flag states, owners, management companies and Captains should co-operate with port state authorities to ensure, where appropriate, that:
• Crew can be changed;
• Guests can embark and disembark;
• Shore leave can continue if safe to do so;
• Yachts can enter and depart shipyards for repair and survey;
• Stores and supplies can be loaded; and
• Necessary certificates and documentation can be issued and maintained.
All Swisspath Yacht Management managed yachts are advised to adopt precautionary measures and seek updated information and requirements from local sources prior to planning or making port calls and to make contingency plans should the local situation change during transit. In the event that you should have any queries from Swisspath Yacht Management please direct them to the dedicated Yacht Manager or, in case of emergencies, as follows:
Mob: +41 79 171 48 92
Suspected Infections On Board
If any infection or contamination is suspected or found on board, the individuals concerned must be placed into isolation, using all the yacht’s facilities as necessary. Captains must report immediately to local health authorities and port state, and the Yacht Manager must be informed. Port states may take additional measures to prevent spread of the infection or contamination.
Swisspath Yacht Management
Swisspath Yacht Management has put in place internal measures to ensure that, despite the current crisis, our managed yachts will continue to receive our full support. These include remote working arrangements for managers and a communications procedure to ensure continuation of management coverage and availability. All our support and emergency procedures remain in place.
However, due to current and possible future travel restrictions outside of our control, we may not always be able to provide on board assistance, although we will make every effort to do so.
For any questions regarding Swisspath Yacht Management and the current situation please contact the dedicated Yacht Manager, in the first instance or, in case of difficulty reaching them then Boris De Bel or the DPA.
Swisspath Yacht Management is aware that stringent border control measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are changing daily and have resulted in some yachts having difficulty in arranging crew changes and repatriating crew at the end of employment agreements or for rotation or leave. As a result, some crew employed on our yachts may exceed the service period as entered in their Seafarer Employment Agreements (SEA).
All parties understand and generally allow for extending SEAs. Communication between Captains and Swisspath Yacht Management is therefore important in handling, on a case by-case basis, COVID-19 contract and repatriation issues. Where required, Swisspath Yacht Management will enter dialogue between the relevant stakeholders (flag state, shipowner, crew, and port state) so that a practicable way forward to an already difficult situation may be found. While it is important that MLC 2006 is complied with and enforced (if and to the extent applicable to the yacht), yachts and crew should not be unreasonably detained or delayed per MLC, 2006, Standard 126.96.36.199, because of a lack of flexibility in these COVID-19-related circumstances.