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IMO issues guidance to ensure seafarers receive medical help

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The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has approved a series of measures meant to provide seafarers with medical care when ashore and provide relief during the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, the IMO said its Secretary General Kitack Lim had endorsed the recommendations, which include monitoring before a vessel reaches port, isolation once symptoms present and the transfer of patients to medical facilities while using personal protective equipment (PPE).

The recommendations, which the IMO has urged port authorities and national governments to implement, come after months of seafarers being unable to disembark at port as nations try to stop the spread of coronavirus.

This has meant some seafarers have spent, in some cases, more than 18 months at sea and have been denied critical healthcare when at port, even when presenting life-threatening symptoms.

“Seafarers are at the heart of everything IMO does, Lim said. “In the darkest hours of the pandemic, they have been selflessly delivering the goods we all need.

“But their own health and wellbeing are as important as that of anyone else. Now is time for governments around the world to deliver for seafarers, by ensuring they can access medical care without delay, whenever they need it”.

Under the International Labour Organization’s Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), port States must ensure that seafarers on board ships in their territory who are in need of immediate medical care are given access to medical facilities on shore.

The obligation to render assistance to seafarers in distress, including medical assistance, is also enshrined in the IMO Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR), Salvage and Facilitation conventions, as well as in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

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