Summary – “Port SOPs During Covid-19 Pandemic – Nightmare for Logistics Operations”

The rapid spread of Covid-19 pandemic has prompted many nations and governments to adopt a protective and preventive approach on all forms of transports, including ocean vessels, to curtail the exposure and spread of this virus. This is bound to create anxieties, uncertainties, disruption, and apprehension to the operations of the shipping companies/lines and charterers and also towards the flow of goods into the destination country.

Vegetable oil and fat industries is among the most effected as it relies heavily on shipping to fulfill the logistics needs and flow of goods, within the supply chain equation., The newly introduced precautionary measure by some of the importing countries, in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic are  causing serious disruption to the flow of trade.

The complexities faced by ship-owners, charterers, port authorities, and governments are multi-faceted. It ranges from crewing and commercial issues and the responsibility of ship-owners to provide care for seafarers and their right to demand that a vessel not call a particular port known to be infected by the Covid-19 and their refusal or reluctant to perform changeovers at ports infected by the Covid-19.

In the background of all these new rules and changes the shipping companies are most concerned about the implication of “demurrages” due to the possibility of slower operation as a result of the workforce being reduced at ports and terminal on directions from authorities to abstain from traveling or reporting to work to minimize the exposure of contacts with the COVID-19.

Disruptions within the supply chains and logistics also cause serious challenges at other port operations areas.

Closer to home, two of Malaysia’s biggest trading partners India and China, have introduced new SOPs to combat the flow and exposure of COVID-19 through stringent measures. 

China among the protection and control measures implemented by the port Authorities of each major Chinese port are health declaration before berthing – Tianjin, and Xiamen Health Declaration Form are required before the vessel’s berthing, Dalian the Customs officers will attend onboard the vessel and take the temperature of each crew, vessels with the crew from Wuhan or Hubei Province on board would be monitored especially, the substitution of the crew is limited. Crew disembarkation is strictly restricted by all ports and during berth in the port, the crew should take preventive measures to name a few

In India, the Port authorities have issued new regulatory guidelines. A March 9 note by the Port Health Organization (PHO) said that cargo vessels coming from China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran, Nepal, and Italy “will be screened and declared ‘suspect’ or ‘healthy’ by the PHO. 

Additional stringent guidelines have exasperates the situation . Among them to name a few are; 

  1. Vessel master will have to send a report to port official as well as Health authorities that the body temperature of each crew and last traveling details and other, 
  2. Port Health Authority/officer will be screening travel history documents before allowing berthing; in case they are not clear then ships will be specially checked by Public Health Authority/officer. 
  3. In case the Port Health Authority/ Officer does not clear the ship, it will be required to wait up to 14 days before final clearance
  4. Any crew members  from China and other listed counties PHO will pay special attention for investigation
  5. Upon berthing after the quarantine period, the Port Health Authority/ Officer will re-check the crew’s body temperature and if it is deemed clear and safe then only vessel is allowed to discharge. 

Besides China and India, many other countries are known to have introduced similar regulatory control requirement on arriving ships

In summary, as governments introduced national and local restrictions which includes the delay in port clearance,  the prevention of crew or passengers from embarking or disembarking (preventing shore leave and crew changes) and the prevention of discharging or loading cargoes, and the imposition of quarantine or refusal port entry to ships, which admittedly has disrupted maritime traffic, “shipping companies may 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”

As long as the Covid-19 continues to be a threat, it is anticipated that the current scenario will not change for the better, but we will see more adoption of regulatory and protectionist measures adopted by nations to ensure that the safety and protection of its borders against the Covid-19 threat

Read a detailed version of this report on MPOC’s POMDR website:http://www.pomdr.org.my

Prepared by: Faudzy Asrafudeen with Bhavna Shah 

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