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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.

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.

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.

Main actions at NCA Pilot Service to prevent the spread of Covid-19

The Norwegian Pilot Service, considered a national service provider of critical value by the Norwegian transport authorities, is taking into account and carrying out, all the precautionary measures recommended and given by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. 

The Pilot Service also emphasizes a focus on preventive means to reduce the spread of Covid-19, in order to safeguard the good health of our own employees, all our partners, and all our customers.

All personnel within the Pilot Service are informed (kept updated) and following the general advice2 given by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. 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 observing, keeping good hand hygiene/cough etiquette and avoiding close physical contact.

  • We encourage our Pilots to use gloves, and we allow our Pilots to use facemask if presented with the opportunity. However, we would like to emphasize that the Norwegian Institute of Public Health do not advice the use of facemask or gloves as a rule for the public.

  • 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) and if any indications – report to Vardø VTS (+47) 78 98 98 98.

Information from The Norwegian Pilot Service to all vessels, to limit the spread of Covid-19.

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 only.

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

Are vessel crews allowed to come ashore?

Some local police districts have introduced shore leave restrictions for foreign crew on board vessels. On a general basis, only loading and unloading of goods are allowed in relevant ports. Shore leave restrictions do not necessarily mean that change of crews will be prohibited.

For more information on restrictions for your port of call, please visit https://www.politiet.no/en/ or contact the relevant local police district: https://www.politiet.no/en/contact-the-police/

Information from the Norwegian police on the corona infection: 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/

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/en/news/news-from-the-nma/regarding-change-of-crew-on-norwegian-vessels-during-novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-outbreak/) 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 and that they do not come from an area of widespread infection. 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 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/english/corona)

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?

The Norwegian government has closed the border for foreigners without a residence permit. It is important to clarify that all transport of goods, both imports and exports, which does not include movement of passengers, is operating as normal.

https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/goods_traffic/id2693654/

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 restrictions for quarantine regulations?

The government recently adopted new regulations for quarantine upon arrival in Norway: https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumenter/regulations-relating-to-quarantine-etc.-upon-arrival-in-norway/id2693880/

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

In addition to national quarantine regulations, several municipalities have introduced local quarantine rules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. These rules can prevent transport of goods, and stop police and defence forces from moving across municipal boundaries. The government has stated that local rules must not prevent those who fulfil critical public functions from moving across municipal boundaries.
https://www.regjeringen.no/no/aktuelt/lokale-regler-ma-ikke-hindre-samfunnsfunksjoner/id2693804/ (In Norwegian only)

The municipal doctor in the relevant municipality will also be able to provide information, information and advice to the population on protection against infectious diseases.

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.
See: https://www.regjeringen.no/no/aktuelt/liste-over-kritiske-samfunnsfunksjoner-fastsatt/id2693800/ (In Norwegian only)

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.