Filipino seafarers will not be allowed to disembark in countries in West Africa with confirmed cases of Ebola to prevent further spreading of the deadly disease that has already claimed nearly 1,000 lives, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said.
“There will be no shore leave for seafarers and no crew change in the ports of these countries in the meantime,” POEA administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said in a statement after the agency issued guidelines for seafarers and ship manning firms Sunday.
The World Health Organization (WHO) had already declared the Ebola outbreak as a “public health emergency of international concern” after confirmed cases in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria reached 1,776 as of August 6, 2014.
The death toll hit 961, prompting the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to issue the guidelines that aim to protect seafarers who would dock at those infected countries.
“The guidelines are issued for our seafarers’ welfare and protection. They could be vulnerable to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) due to the unavoidable circumstance where they have to interact with shore-based personnel who come on board ships to perform their respective duties,” DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz said in the statement.
DOLE had also previously banned the deployment of all new hires after the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) raised crisis alert level 2 (restriction phase) last July 2, 2014.
POEA guidelines also state that crewmen should be given protective equipment.
Any signs or symptoms of the disease must be immediately reported to the ship’s medical officer.
“They shall report those who have fever, headache, intense weakness, joint and muscle pains, and sore throat to their principal/employer who, in turn, are required to coordinate with appropriate international marine medical providers to seek their guidance on ways to manage an EVD contamination on board,” Cacdac said.
Cacdac further urged ship manning agencies to adopt the following guidelines from several international maritime workers’ organizations:
- The Master must ensure that the crewmen are aware of the risks, how the virus can be spread and how to mitigate the risk;
- The ISPS Code requirements on ensuring that unauthorized personnel are not allowed to board the ship and should be strictly enforced throughout the duration of the ship’s stay in port; and
- After departure, the crew should be aware of the symptoms and report any occurring symptoms immediately to the persons/authorities in charge of medical are onboard.
Philippines is the largest supplier of seafarers in the world. There were 460,000 Filipino seafarers as at the end of 2013.
Filipinos are employed as seamen worldwide, more than any other nationality.
One out of every five seamen in the world is a Filipino.
Filipino seamen are often recruited to man tankers and sea vessels.
Official data show that there are about 880 Filipinos living in Guinea, 1,979 in Sierra Leone and 632 in Liberia, including the 148 Filipino UN Peacekeeping Force.
On August 8, the World Health Organization declared the Ebola virus outbreak as an international public health emergency.—Ships and Ports