POEA bans shore leave, crew change in Ebola-hit ports

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Monday, August 11, 2014

IN A bid to ensure the safety of sea-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) against the Ebola virus disease (EVD), the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has decided to prohibit them from leaving their ships when making a stop in the affected areas.

In a statement, POEA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said they have issued a directive for all shipping principals or employers of Filipino seafarers to limit the possibility of their exposure or contamination with the EVD.

"There will be no shore leave for seafarers and no crew change in the ports of these countries in the meantime," said Cacdac.

He said the directive is part of the actions being undertaken by the Philippine government in order to protect OFWs from acquiring the disease, especially in areas with EVD outbreaks, namely, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

"The guidelines are issued for our seafarers' welfare and protection. They could be vulnerable to the EVD due to the unavoidable circumstance where they have to interact with shore-based personnel who come on board ships to perform their respective duties," said Cacdac.

Aside from disallowing Filipino seafarers to leave their ships, the POEA also said all shipping principals, or employers must ensure that seafarers are properly provided with working gears, including personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and goggles when necessary to protect them from EVD.

The POEA guidelines also provide that it shall be the responsibility of the ship master and/or the designated ship medical officer to report any case involving a crew who become symptomatic of EVD.

"They shall report those who have fever, headache, intense weakness, joint and muscle pains, and sore throat to their principal/employer who, in turn, are required to coordinate with appropriate international marine medical providers to seek their guidance on ways to manage an EVD contamination on board," said Cacdac.

The POEA also requires principals/employers and manning agencies to report any incident of EVD contamination on any of their ships.

"The report, containing complete details of the crew affected and the actions taken by the company, shall be submitted through e-mail to the Office of the POEA Administrator, who in turn shall provide copies of the report to the Departments of Health and Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration," the POEA chief said.

Finally, Cacdac said principals/employers and manning agencies must ensure that all EVD-related advisories and guidelines are properly disseminated to seafarers for proper information on the disease.

To note, the Philippines supplies an estimated one-third of the world's shipping manpower with about 300,000. (HDT/Sunnex)

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