Aug 152014
Hans Leo Cacdac

POEA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Manning agencies must now include information on the deadly Ebola virus from the Health department and the World Health Organization (WHO) in predeparture seminars for Filipino seafarers, the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said in an advisory.

In similar advisories, the Marina and POEA also asked shipping companies to make sure that seamen are “aware of the risks posed by Ebola, how the virus can be spread and how to mitigate the risks.”

Poea administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said that as additional precaution, “shipping principals and employers of ships operating or calling on Ebola-affected countries in West Africa should provide seafarers with medical masks, gloves and goggles to limit their exposure (to) or contamination (from) the virus.”

Marina chief Maximo Mejia, Jr., and Cacdac also advised ship masters to avoid crew changes and to disallow seamen from availing themselves of shore leaves while calling on Ebola-affected ports.

“Unauthorized personnel should not be allowed to board the ship throughout the duration of the vessel’s stay in those ports,” the two officials added, referring to commercial sex workers who offer their services to the crew of docked ships.

Close to 400,000 Filipino seafarers are manning cargo and passengers ships worldwide.

Joint advisory

In its Flag State Advisory, the Marina urged ship owners and manning agencies to “follow (the) guidelines and recommendations issued by the WHO and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).”

Early this month, a joint advisory issued by the ICS, the International Maritime Employers’ Council and the International Transport Workers’ Federation warned against Ebola, which “spreads through human-to-human transmission with infection resulting from direct contact with blood or body fluids of infected persons, as well as contact with environments contaminated with such fluids.”

According to the advisory, “Ebola is not spread through the air…Some health workers have been infected while treating patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola virus when infection control precautions are not strictly practised,” the advisory said.


Outbreak in West Africa

Last week, the DOH said the Philippines will likely remain free of Ebola, although it still issued tips to help Filipinos avoid the disease amid an outbreak in West Africa.

Nearly 3,500 overseas Filipino workers, including 148 peacekeepers for the United Nations, are based in the Ebola-hit nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The POEA said it was the responsibility of the ship’s master or designated medical officer to report to their principal any case involving crew members who exhibit symptoms of the virus like fever, headache, intense weakness, joint and muscle pains, and sore throat.

The principal or employer, in turn, was “required to coordinate with appropriate international marine medical providers to seek guidance on ways to manage an Ebola virus contamination on board.”


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