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Gareth Burton, VP Technology, ABS
By Sea and Coast | 04/01/2021

ABS providesindustry-leading guidance on mitigation ofCOVID-19 and other infectious disease outbreaks on marine and offshore assets

Comprehensive guidance on sanitizing and decontaminating marine and offshore assets exposed to COVID-19 is providing confidence for operators on how to manage their offshore operations in a health pandemic says Gareth Burton, ABS Vice President for Technology

Response Measures to COVID-19 for the Marine and Offshore Industries provides best practice guidelines for sanitizing assets exposed to COVID-19. It is part of a series of guidance resources provided by the world’s leading class and certification authority that is helpingenergy operators address the many challenges the virus brings, addressing the physical arrangements of an asset and its operating procedures, to allow isolation and segregation of crew and visiting personnel. 

The best practices document helps to answer a range of practical, urgent questions including how to prevent an asset from getting contaminated, how to maintain an asset in a sanitized state, how to decontaminate an asset when there is an onboard COVID-19 case and considerations for the choice, use and disposal of cleaning and disinfecting products.

ABS has also just launched theABS Guide for Mitigation of Infectious Disease Transmission on Board Marine and Offshore Assets, complete with the industry’s first notation, responding to the pressing industry need for strategies to mitigate the occurrence and transmission of infectious diseases, including COVID-19 and a range of other hazards.

COVID-19 has highlighted how marine and offshore assets can be affected by infectious diseases. The advice by ABS is that robust procedures and protocols should be implemented for the health and wellbeing of seafarers and passengers,whilst safely maintaining day-to-day operations of marine and offshore assets. It applies also to ABS’s own operations as the company continues to focus on protecting the health of its colleagues, clients and members while taking steps to help contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus by introducing enhanced measures to ensure continuity of service.

Infectious disease transmission

Many infectious diseases are causedby microbes including viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. Some infectious agents can remain viable in air, water, food, on surfaces, and in nearly all bodily fluids. Many infectious agents remain viable long enough to enable transfer from one person to another.

Given that the environment on marine and offshore assets is restricted, infectious diseases have the potential to spread rapidly and to affect significant proportions of the personnel on board. Infectious diseases are transmitted through six main routes: food, water, vectors (such as rodents and insects), air, direct contact between humans and indirect contact with contaminated surfaces.

By considering these issues at the design stage of an asset, the effectiveness of operational measures can be significantly increased. In a recent poll conducted by ABS, approximately one third of participants saidthey are considering changing future marine or offshore asset design, or altering current assets, to better prevent or manage an outbreak on board.

For many existing assets without the option of re-design, the key is to develop protocols and procedures aimed at mitigating infectious disease risks, and to prevent or minimize impact should an outbreak occur.

Physical arrangement measures

Based on several governmental and commercial sources including the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the World Health Organization (WHO), ABS has identified waysto mitigate against the occurrence and transmission of infectious diseases onboard an asset:

Single occupancy isolation cabinswith an anteroom provide a means for isolating individuals with suspected cases of an infectious disease. Isolation cabins and their associated anterooms, should be ventilated and air-conditioned without putting the exhaust air into recirculation, or venting it near high-traffic public spaces or other air intakes.Special considerations should be given to materials andsurfaces to facilitate cleaning and disinfection.

Medical facilitiesshould be under negative pressureand be located as close as possible to the entrance into the accommodation block from an open deck space. Ventilation, material, and surface requirements similar to the isolation cabins should be considered.

Separated facilities for use by visitorsshould be considered in order to promote the segregation of visitors and crew. Designated sanitary and office spaces should be provided with independent air exhausts and interior material and surface requirements like the ones for isolation cabins. These spaces should be readily accessible from an outside entrance to avoid inadvertent contact between visitors and crew.

Storerooms for infectious solid waste, cleaning agents, disinfectants, and laundry rooms should be well ventilated with the exhaust air fed directly to the outside. All interior surfaces should be accessible for cleaning and disinfection.

Support infrastructureto provide medical back-up and advice to physicians and other health care personnel should be considered. For example, telemedicine cancontribute to clinical care, as well as to the epidemiological management of infectious diseases, both of which can be very challenging for medical providers practicing in remote locations.

Operational measures

Each infectious disease outbreak isunique and may present different operational challenges on board marine and offshore assets. The early detection, prevention, and control of infectious diseases may be achieved using many different operational measures. There are two types of operational plans that can be integrated as part of a company’s health, safety, quality and environmental (HSQE) management system.

Prevention management plan– includes measures to minimize the risk of exposure. It should be developed long before the threat of infection, and implemented in case of an epidemic in the area where the asset is located, or will be in the near future, or in a global pandemic, before the asset experiences cases. This is in addition to the steps taken to prevent infectious diseases such as food service safety and other operational processes.

Outbreak management plan –contains a range of measures to manage the outbreak,including isolation of suspected cases to prevent spread, active surveillance ofcases onboard, incident reporting procedures for informing the local port health authority, asset management, identification of risk factors, and more.

ABS is committed to supporting its clients anywhere in the world 24/7, and its team continues to provide services worldwide while complying with all government-directed health and operational requirements and guidance.

Download a copy of the ABS Guide for Mitigation of Infectious Disease Transmission on Board Marine and Offshore Assetshere.

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