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International Safety@Sea interview: MPA shares what it means to conduct bunkering operations in the ‘new norm’

01 Dec 2020

Captain Daknash Ganasen, Senior Director (Operations & Marine Services), Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) recently spent time with Singapore bunkering publication Manifold Times to share what it means to conduct marine refuelling operations in the era of the ‘new normal’ during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following interview is conducted as part of event coverage for the MPA’s International Safety@Sea Webinar Series:

Do you think the current recommendations by the port authority for bunker tanker crew and bunker surveyors are enough? Also, what additional measures can they adopt on top of the MPA recommendations to take health and safety to the next level?

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has been monitoring local and overseas developments closely. Through port marine notices, MPA has proactively advised the maritime community, including bunkering companies, on the precautionary measures that the industry should adopt. In August this year, MPA issued a bunkering notice to bunker suppliers, craft operators and surveying companies to update them on a set of precautionary measures to minimise the risk of contracting COVID-19 during bunkering operations in the Port of Singapore. These precautionary measures include wearing surgical masks, gloves and face shields, maintaining safe distance and minimising exposure to enclosed environments. MPA also encouraged the implementation of contactless bunkering operations whenever possible.

All parties will have to remain vigilant and abide by the precautionary measures at all times to keep themselves safe and healthy, while ensuring that bunkering operations in Singapore continue to be reliable, efficient and transparent.

If a bunker tanker crew and bunker surveyor is suspected to be in contact with a COVID-19 infected vessel, what should they do?

In addition to informing his company/employer, the individual should also notify the Port Health Office and seek its advice. In the event of a confirmed case, Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) conducts contact tracing to identify the close contacts of COVID-19 confirmed patients. Close contacts will be advised by MOH officials on the measures they should take.

MPA also recommends that the master of the vessel disinfects common areas and rooms in the vessel based on the Interim Guidelines for Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection of Areas Exposed to Confirmed Case(s) of COVID-19 in Non-Healthcare Commercial Premises prepared by the National Environment Agency.

How safe is it to provide marine fuel to a COVID-19 infected vessel? What precautions should a bunker supplier take if they know the vessel has infected crew on board?

Visiting ships calling at the Port of Singapore are required to submit a Medical Declaration of Health 24 hours prior to arrival and notify the Port Health Office of any confirmed/suspected COVID-19 cases aboard their ships. Marine services will continue to be provided to ships with identified cases of confirmed/suspected COVID-19 aboard. However, contactless operations will have to be implemented for the provision of these services in order to mitigate the risk of importing COVID-19 into Singapore.

How long do you expect such COVID-19 enhanced precautions for the maritime sector to last? Is this the new norm for the maritime sector moving forward?

MPA is closely monitoring the global COVID-19 pandemic, together with other government agencies. We will take guidance from MOH and the Ministry of Manpower on the precautionary measures to be adopted at workplaces.

What advise can you give to companies to handle crew stuck onboard bunker tankers for an extended period of time?

MPA recognises the importance of crew change to safeguard the health and well-being of crew members. We have worked with the industry to put in place a set of procedures to ensure that crew change can be safely conducted in the Port of Singapore with measures implemented to mitigate possible COVID-19 importation risks.  We have been facilitating crew changes for the harbour craft sector, which include crew members aboard bunker tankers, since Circuit Breaker. In reducing the risks of importing COVID-19 cases, the implementation of precautionary measures may result in crew change delays. MPA encourages companies to engage their crew regularly to apprise them of the situation and to seek their understanding during these unprecedented times.


Photo credit: Manifold Times
Published: 1 December, 2020

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