Reed Smith Client Alerts

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Two days later, the WHO stated that Europe showed more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China. Italy now has more reported deaths from COVID-19 than China and, as COVID-19 continues to spread, governments across the globe are implementing ever stricter measures in an attempt to contain or delay the spread of the disease. Those measures are causing significant disruption to seaborne trade.

Reed Smith is fielding a substantial number of enquiries relating to COVID-19. In this briefing, we set out some guidance on the most common issues we are seeing.

grid of cargo containers
  1. Crew health

Owners’ priority is the well-being of the crew on their vessels. They need, in particular, to:

(a) Circulate health and hygiene measures. The Master should ensure full understanding and compliance, and be particularly alert to any symptoms suggesting that a member of the crew may have been infected. Immediate steps need to be taken to isolate that person and seek urgent and appropriate medical advice.

(b) Disclose to the vessel’s next port of call any suspected cases of COVID-19 on board.

(c) Exercise particular care when persons need to board the vessel in the course of the vessel’s trade (e.g., agents, stevedores, local authorities).

(d) Monitor, insofar as possible, the mental health of their crews. Prolonged delays, confinement due to disembarkation restrictions, or a fellow crew member affected by COVID-19 may prove particularly difficult.

(e) Contact their P&I insurer and seek to agree in advance a response plan in case of a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 on board the vessel to ensure they remain covered.

(f) Understand that failure to take appropriate pre-emptive and responsive steps may expose owners to liability for crew members who contract COVID-19.