“New protocols on ships will impact global economy”
As economies across the world begin to open operations and other activities as the lockdown occasioned by COVID-19 eases, the challenges of settling for a new structure on how seafarers would begin to live on board ships could be more challenging.
Captain Sahib Olopoenia, a former President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM) and a retired Director of Maritime Safety at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA), views the role of maritime administrations in establishing a new structure for seafarers on board ships as very important.
“There have to be more protocols that they would have to adhere to. The Flag Administrations will now have to give directives on how seafarers would be living on board ships.
“Because things have changed completely now. It is a different ball-game. There will be testing, continuous testing of seafarers every time, and to know that those who have coronavirus would leave the vessel and they have to change the crew and all that,” Captain Olopoenia said.
He noted that though the pandemic had affected the whole world and all facets and everybody is suffering the impact in some ways, when the lockdown is over, the new protocols on ships would further affect the rest of the world, economically.
“The way it is now, by the time the lockdown is over, the way the ships used to be now and everything will change.
“Even the way we live on land everything will change because, social distance will still continue, everybody will be wearing mask and we have to wash our hands.
“But, if you now compare that with a ship, people that are living in a ship are in a confined environment and have to be there 24 hours. The challenges are going to be far more,” Olopoenia said.
Olopoenia is however concerned that if the occurrence on one of the US Navy ships where hundreds of the crew caught the coronavirus and the vessel had to be taken to a port and quarantined happens on a merchant ship, the impact would hit trade significantly.
“So, you can imagine if it happens to a merchant ship, the cost to the cargo owners, to the ship itself and of course the cost will now be transferred to the consumers. Of course, things are going to be completely different from what we look at now,” he said.
But, in a case of Nigeria specifically, Olopoenia said the concerns may be less as Nigerian ships are only still operating within the coast.
“So, maybe if Nigerian seafarers catch the virus they can easily be evacuated and brought ashore. But the ship still has to be quarantined and fumigated before the ship can go back to work. Those are the kind of problems that the industry would face.”