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The Coronavirus and Seagoing Traffic

The corona (Covid 19) pandemic is currently affecting society to a great extent. We are getting many questions on how this is affecting seagoing traffic and ports.

Important clarification (week 39, 2020)
Ships arriving Norway from abroad, and suspects or have confirmed infection of covid-19 on board, are obliged to notify the Norwegian authorities of this – in accordance with the rules (IHR regulations § 5).

  • The vessel's master shall then notify the Norwegian Coastal Administration's VTS in Vardø by telephone +47 78 98 98 98.

In addition, an electronic notification must be completed in SafeSeaNet Norway. The Norwegian Coastal Administration notifies the municipal doctor in the municipality where the port of arrival is located. The municipal doctor's duty to contact the National Institute of Public Health is stated in the IHR regulations § 4.

Vessels sailing between Norwegian ports are not obliged to notify in accordance with the provisions of the IHR regulations, but are encouraged to follow the same routine.

It is important to clarify that ports remain open. Ships transporting goods are still allowed to arrive Norwegian ports. The restrictive measures are mainly aimed at passenger traffic, which can further impose restrictions on freedom of movement for personnel on vessels.

The Norwegian government has introduced drastic measures in hopes of limiting the spread of the coronavirus. In the Norwegian Coastal Administration, we do what we can to prevent the spread of infection, while maintaining our emergency preparedness and other community-critical services.

Our Maritime Pilot Service and Vessel Traffic Service centres ‒ as well as digital reporting and information services ‒ are functioning normally. We continue to ensure a national emergency preparedness against acute pollution and important installations for safe navigation at sea.

Health measure requirements for cruise on the coast of Norway

The Ministry of Health and Care Services has issued a new rule, § 10b, in the Covid-19-Regulations (https://lovdata.no/dokument/SF/forskrift/2020-03-27-470) with health measure requirements for cruise on the coast of Norway. The key points of the new rule are:

  • the shipowner has to make a plan detailing the health measures that will be applied during the cruise and must send the plan to the Norwegian Directorate of Health
  • if the plan is satisfactory the Norwegian Directorate of Health will approve the cruise
  • passengers and crew are not allowed to disembark in Norway
  • max pax must not exceed 50% of total capacity. After sufficient demonstration of compliance, the shipowner may request the Norwegian Directorate of Health to increase the max pax to 70%.
  • if COVID-19 is suspected on board, the Medical Officer must undertake a test and collaborate with the Municipal Doctor in order to bring the test to the nearest hospital for an analysis. Isolation and quarantine for the suspected case shall be undertaken inside the vessel.
  • if the COVID-19 test is positive, the vessel must return to the boarding port.

The new rule does not apply to Norwegian ships sailing with passengers that both embark and disembark in Norway (Covid-19-Regulations § 5. third para).

More information and guidelines in Norwegian and English are available on the homepage of the Norwegian Directorate of Health.

Pilot Exemption Certificates (PEC) prolonged for 6 months

The Ministry of Transport has promulgated a temporary Regulations prolonging all PECs expiring between 2. April 2020 and the end of the year. The Regulations states that any PEC-holder not being able to carry out the necessary sailings required for renewal, or who is not able to apply for renewal, due to the Covid19-situation, will have his/her PEC automatically prolonged for 6 months. As of now the Norwegian Coastal Administration has capacity to case-handle applications and those wishing to renew their license can still do so.

NCA Pilot Services – Covid19 measures

The Norwegian Pilot Service, is taking into account and carrying out, all the precautionary measures recommended and given by Norwegian Health Authorities. This means, amongst other things, that;

  • We do not go to work with symptoms of the flu, nor do we stay in contact with persons with symptoms of the flu.
  • We strongly limit physical meetings.
  • We take general preventive measures, such as good hand hygiene/cough etiquette and avoiding close physical contact.
  • We use protective equipment (facemask, gloves) in accordance with national advice. As of now the Norwegian Institute of Public Health do not advice the use of facemask as ageneral protective measure. The pilot is free to adapt the use of protective measures to the individual situation.
  • We continuously seek ways of transportation for our Pilots that lowers the possibility for close physical contact with other persons, e.g. rental cars.

All vessels must confirm whether there are persons aboard the vessel with symptoms of flu or other symptoms that can be related to Covid-19 in SafeSeaNet Norway (SSNN).

Are ports in Norway closed?

The transport of goods, both imports and exports ‒ excluding passenger transport ‒ is operating as normal on roads, trains, ships and aircrafts. That means that Norwegian ports, in addition to airports and border crossings, are open for goods transport.

See more information at Government.no (https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/goods_traffic/id2693654/)

Are vessel crews allowed to come ashore?

The local police districts may impose shore leave restrictions. Rules on shore leave restrictions may vary between districts, but on a general basis, loading and unloading of goods are allowed in ports. Shore leave restrictions do not necessarily mean that change of crews will be prohibited.

A number of local police districts introduces shore leave restrictions in March/April but some of these have now been repealed. For more information on restrictions for your port of call, please visit https://www.politiet.no/en/politiet-informerer/the-polices-measures-in-connection-with-the-corona-virus/the-polices-measures-in-connection-with-the-corona-virus/ or contact the relevant local police district: https://www.politiet.no/en/contact-the-police/

How should crew changes and service personnel access be carried out?

The Norwegian Maritime Authority is the relevant authority on the matter of crew changes and service personnel access to ships via ports. Guidelines on crew changes (https://www.sdir.no/aktuelt/nyheter/retningslinjer-i-forbindelse-med-av--og-pamonstring-av-mannskap-i-norske-havner/) in Norwegian ports have been issued. For further questions on crew changes and access by service personnel via ports, please contact the Norwegian Maritime Directorate at https://www.sdir.no/en/news/korona/

Who should we contact if someone on board our vessel is infected, or if we suspect infection on board?

Both ships and port operators are required to notify health authorities immediately if there is an outbreak, or a suspected outbreak, of coronavirus on board a vessel. This is in accordance with the Regulations on Alerting and Measures for Serious Events of Importance to International Public Health (IHR Regulation). (https://www.fhi.no/en/qk/international/global-health-preparedness-programme/global-health-preparedness-programme/the-international-health-regulations-ihr-2005/)

All vessels that use SafeSeaNet Norway must now confirm that there is no detection or suspected infection on board. If the ship cannot confirm this, notification shall be given to Vardø VTS (NOR VTS).

  • Notify Vardø Vessel Traffic Service (NOR VTS) on +47 78 98 98 98. They will assist in notifying the municipal doctor / municipal superintendent in the municipality of the vessel's first port of call
  • Notify the Norwegian Public Health Institute on telephone + 47 21 07 70 00 (during working hours) or on +47 21 07 63 48 (Infection Control Unit)

After that, it will be up to the health authorities to consider further necessary measures.

It is important to note that IHR regulations enable health authorities to take action against persons, including quarantine of vessels.

NB! The regulations specify that ships cannot be refused to arrive at a port, or unload, load or store cargo for public health reasons, and that ships are allowed to board fuel, water, food and supplies (§ 17). The Harbour and Fairways Act also does not provide grounds for denying this.

How should coastal municipalities manage ships with suspected or known infection on board?

In connection with the outbreak of the corona, the Norwegian Directorate of Health has sent letters to all coastal municipalities on how ships with suspected or known infection on board should be handled. The letter can be found on website of the Norwegian Directorate of Health. (https://www.helsedirektoratet.no/tema/beredskap-og-krisehandtering/koronavirus/anbefalinger-og-beslutninger/Informasjon%20til%20Fylkesmenn%20og%20kystkommuner%20om%20h%C3%A5ndtering%20av%20skip%20med%20mistenkt%20eller%20kjent%20smitte%20om%20bord%20-%20covid-19.pdf)

The Directorate of Health has prepared posters and information sheets with important information that can be printed out and hung in relevant places. The information is aimed at people who come to Norway, people who work in contact with travellers to Norway, and hygiene information to the general public.

The Norwegian Directorate of Health's posters with information for travellers and with infection prevention advice: https://www.helsedirektoratet.no/tema/beredskap-og-krisehandtering/koronavirus/plakater-og-informasjonsmateriell

We ask ports and port facilities to make posters available for travellers arriving or staying, and to send the information sheet to personnel working with travellers. Ports that regularly call for international traffic or await such traffic can also pass on the information to shipping companies and vessels.

What does enhanced border control mean?

Norwegian authorities have introduced enhanced border control and will reject foreign nationals entry to Norway, including in ports. There are a number of exemptions, including for persons exempt from quarantine requirements upon entry into Norway. It is important to note that specific groups of persons may not be rejected under the Regulations including (§ 2a letter k):

Seamen, en route to or from active service, with an identity card as specified in section 2-8 of the Immigration Regulations or a Philippine Seafarer's Identification and Record Book or a Philippine national passport as specified in section 3-1 (j) of the Immigration Regulations

The regulations can be found here: https://lovdata.no/dokument/SFE/forskrift/2020-03-15-293

Please find more information on the websites of the Norwegian Customs and Norwegian Police.

https://www.toll.no/en/

https://www.politiet.no/en/politiet-informerer/the-polices-measures-in-connection-with-the-corona-virus/the-polices-measures-in-connection-with-the-corona-virus/

What are the quarantine requirements in Norway?

The government has adopted regulations for infections control measures in connection with the coronavirus outbreak, including on quarantine requirements upon arrival in Norway. An English version of the regulations can be found here: https://lovdata.no/dokument/SFE/forskrift/2020-03-27-470?q=covid-19

Questions relating to these regulations should be addressed to the Norwegian Directorate for Health: https://www.helsedirektoratet.no/english

What is viewed as critical public functions?

On Government.no you can find a list of critical public functions: https://www.regjeringen.no/no/aktuelt/liste-over-kritiske-samfunnsfunksjoner-fastsatt/id2693800/ (In Norwegian only)

The list defines transportation and shipping industry as businesses with critical public functions. Note that quarantine rules and local rules provide for certain exceptions for persons with critical public functions. The Marine Pilot is defined as critical public personnel, and is therefore exempt from regulations on shore leave and quarantine.

Which new regulations have been introduced due to the Corona outbreak?

See Government.no for available regulations in English: https://www.regjeringen.no/en/topics/koronavirus-covid-19/id2692388/

Relevant regulations are available in Norwegian here: https://lovdata.no/artikkel/oversikt_ny_regulering_knytt_til_koronaviruset/2669

Where can I find information about the corona outbreak?

Please see the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (https://www.fhi.no/en/id/infectious-diseases/coronavirus/) for important information on the Corona infection and its status.