MARITIME - International Maritime Organization Issues Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Guidance

            The International Maritime Organization (“IMO”) is a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to establishing global standards for international shipping.  The IMO governs a broad spectrum of international shipping issues, including safety requirements for shipping companies, passengers, and seafarers.  Currently, IMO has 173 Member States.

            The Novel Coronavirus is becoming an emerging health epidemic. More than one passenger cruise line has recently suspended all voyages to mainland China. On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (“WHO”) declared that the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (“PHEIC”).

             On January 31, 2020, IMO issued guidance for IMO Member States concerning seafaring and shipping health threats in various regions of the world. The first Circular Letter No. 4203 provides information and guidance to ship operators developed by the WHO and the Division of Healthcare Management and Occupational Safety and Health (“DHMOSH”).

            IMO also issued Circular Letter No. 4203 on January 31, 2020, to provide guidance to minimize risks to seafarers, passengers, and others aboard ships from the Novel Coronavirus.    The IMO Circular Letter contains advice to seafarers and passengers as well as health workers concerning precautionary measures to avoid contracting or spreading the Novel Coronavirus.  Among the precautionary recommendations include steps to prevent illness with respiratory pathogens and avoidance of outbreak locations and obtaining up-to-date information with local health advice.  The IMO will certainly be issuing additional circulars during this international health crisis in order to protect the shipping industry, passengers, and crew.

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