COVID-19: latest information for UK Port Sector and Maritime Industry

Published: Tuesday, February 25, 2020 - 15:21

Following the development of the Novel Coronavirus outbreak worldwide, PSS issues a Safety Alert to the UK Port Sector and Maritime Industry, Compiling various sources of information and guidance available from International bodies, UK government bodies and Port specific guidance.

Information campaign on COVID19 focus primarily on handwashing

The public awareness campaign focuses on preventing and slowing the spread of COVID-19 through its handwashing campaign. To access the video, click below.



The latest information available from the World Health Organization, International Chamber of Shipping and the latest information of the EU Healthy Gateways is compiled below.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Technical Guidance details critical preparedness, readiness and response actions for COVID-19. All countries should increase their level of preparedness, alert and response to identify, manage and care for new cases of COVID-19. Countries should prepare to respond to different public health scenarios, recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing cases and outbreaks of COVID-19. Each country should assess its risk and rapidly implement the necessary measures at the appropriate scale to reduce both COVID-19 transmission and economic, public and social impacts. Click on the link below to access the guidance

world health organization

This guidance from the ad-hoc working group was established with members from the EU HEALTHY GATEWAYS joint action consortium.The scope of the advice provided in this document is to assist authorities in developing their short-term and long-term national and local preparedness plans at points of entry in the European Union (EU)/EEA Member States (MS). It further contains useful advice for the air, maritime and ground transportation sectors. Click on the link below to access the guidance


In response to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, this Guidance has been produced by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) to support all types of ships which operate in international waters. The purpose is to help shipping companies follow the advice provided by United Nations agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), as well as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Click on the link below to access the guidance

International chamber of shipping Guidance                                                                                                  


INFORMATION & GUIDANCE ON COVID19 (Including Mental Health) - UK and Republic of Ireland 

Action Plan


Government response to COVID-19 is guided by the developing situation internationally, the advice of organisations such as WHO, surveillance, data modelling based on the best available evidence and the recommendations of expert bodies.

There is a similarity between COVID-19 and influenza (both are respiratory infections), but also some important differences. Consequently, and lessons learned from previous outbreaks, provide a useful starting point for the development of an effective response plan to COVID-19. That plan has been adapted to take account of differences between the 2 diseases. Annex A sets out the structure for the UK’s response to a disease outbreak.

The latest information available from government bodies is compiled below:





coronavirus (COVID-19) - Latest HSE Ireland Information


UK GOV Travel Advice


uk gov guidance for employers

HSE Ireland - mental health guidance during covid-19 outbreak

HSE UK - latest covid-19 information



The UK Government Coronavirus Action Plan specifically details;

  • Section 4.6 mentions that public health agencies and Board Force have been working with 'ports' to enhance port health measures, with Public Health England teams on-site at appropriate International Ports. 
  • Section 4.9 mentions the Maritime Declaration of Health Form must be completed for all vessels arriving from any foreign port.

To access detailed information about  the action plans detailed in Sections 4.6 and 4.9 in the UK Action Plan, click on the link below

coronavirus action plan: a guide to what you can expect across the uk


British Ports Association 

Public Health England has published further guidance for those working in the transport sector, and also for shipping and sea ports. Please refer to the Guidance for shipping and sea ports (attachment 7)  and to the Guidance for Staff in the Transport Sector (attachment 8) below for detailed information.

Key points to note

1) Guidelines for Ports

  • Before boarding the ship, crew and passengers should be asked about the history of travel to an affected area and/or close contact with a person who has confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) in the previous 14 days. If they are feeling unwell with symptoms of coronavirus they should not travel.
  • Use announcements in transport hubs to reinforce key messages, such as washing hands before and after travel, and what to do if unwell.
  • If someone becomes unwell at the port [and has a history of travel to an affected area and/or close contact with a person who has confirmed COVID-19 in the previous 14 days they should be moved to a room or area where they can be isolated whilst awaiting medical assessment.
  • Appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning of surfaces that a symptomatic person has come into contact with are key measures to stop the spread of the virus.
  • Should a port or ship have a member of staff with coronavirus they will be contacted by the local Public Health England Health Protection Team who will undertake a risk assessment and advise on any actions or precautions that should be taken. The Health Protection Team will also be in contact with the patient directly to advise on isolation. They will be in touch with any close contacts of the person with confirmed COVID-19 to provide them with appropriate advice.
  • Anyone who is identified as a close contact of the person with coronavirus will be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP).
  • There is no known increase in risk for handling baggage, post or freight from specified countries. Staff should continue to follow existing risk assessments and safe systems of work. 

2) Guidelines for Shipping Companies      

  • The Master of the Ship should notify the Port Health Authority about any suspected cases of COVID-19 as soon as possible, who will then inform the local Health Protection Team.
  • Ships are required to notify the port of arrival of any illness on board by submitting a Maritime Declaration of Health (MDH). If the MDH reports any instances of illness, the usual procedures for infectious diseases will be followed.
  • The Master should assess the health of their vessel before submitting the MDH at the first port of call in the UK and any other UK ports requesting the MDH
  • Passengers or crew who have not had close contact with a person who has confirmed COVID-19 do not need to take any additional precautions and normal routines should continue.
  • For vessels that arrive with potential cases of COVID-19, PHE’s local Health Protection Team will deliver enhanced port health monitoring in line with that in place at airports for the passengers and crew on board. Enhanced monitoring arrangements involve assessing a person’s recent travel history, who they have been in contact with and where they are going next, as well as a possible medical assessment. Medical assessments will be carried out by trained medical staff and not by the Border Force or other staff. Passengers and crew will also be given advice on what to do should they develop symptoms later, again consistent with enhanced monitoring arrangements at airports.

Note - After consulting with local port health authorities, some larger ports have decided to request all vessels arriving from any foreign port submit an MDH. In this scenario, VTS will ask all vessels to confirm that they have submitted an MDH and have been granted free pratique before a pilot is boarded. Some ports have an exception to this in relation to ro-ro ferries and have developed a separate plan directly with the operator. Such actions are not mentioned in government guidance, but it is something you may wish to consider.

UK Harbour Masters' Association 

Peel Ports Group has instigated across its portfolio of Competent Harbour Authorities the following proposed Pilot Embarkation Additional Procedure for the embarkation of pilots and subsequent vessel transit after consultation with the relevant Port Health Authorities.

Gary Doyle , Chief Harbour Master has kindly offered to share the proposed emergency procedures to both the UKHMA And the UKMPA. Gary welcomes any ideas or modification of the proposal that might assist in a generic advice document that assists all ports & pilots. I hope that the attached may be of benefit to some members. (Please see attachment 9 below)

Martin Willis, Executive Officer, UKHMA



World Health Organisation have more guidance than PHE  Click here


HSE Staff have been given the following advice (Internally)

  •  Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands;
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick;
  • If you have symptoms of colds or flu, stay at home, do not attend work;
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the bin; 
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces;
We have also been looking at the following - Advice for staff and managers instructing staff not to put colleagues at risk – i.e.


  • Staying away from offices if they have symptoms themselves or if they are in contact with people with symptoms since there is some evidence that you can carry the virus whilst remaining largely symptom-free;
  • Flexibility of approach should we move past the containment phase – encouraging working from home where this is possible, recognising individual differences in terms of medical conditions, those who have contact with vulnerable individuals – such as carers, for example. Some staff don’t have a WAH option, but reducing numbers attending offices will reduce the risk to them;
  • Flexibility for situations such as when schools close so that staff can work from home where possible,
  • Advice on travelling/visiting for HSE staff should the outbreak get worse (should we consider postponing visits, for example);
  • Advice for cleaning staff, in terms of what they need to do to clean door handles etc., and to avoid just spreading contamination on cloths;

Nicola Jaynes, HM Inspector of Health and Safety, Transport and Public Services Unit | Engagement and Policy Division HSE.

ABP has established a twice-weekly regional update sharing information, issues and study cases from the ports. We have also run tabletop exercises aimed at reduced manning through self-isolation, reduced resources through supply reduction etc. Peter Wortley, Head of Health and Safety ABP Group.

I’ve had a number of items shared to myself and items attached seem to be the latest and most accurate. In general, most ports have been asking for maritime declarations of health to be completed prior to vessels entering ports. Should a vessel have a positive declaration they are encouraging a supplementary declaration. The flow chart seems to be the logical path following a positive identification. (Attachments below) 

  1. Advice Health Gateway - Interim advice for preparedness and response to cases of COVID 19 at points of entry in the European Union (EU)/EEA member states (MS)
  2. EU Gateway - Algorithm (Flow Chart) for decision making in response to an event of a suspect case of COVID-19 onboard ships
  3. NHS Handwashing Techniques
  4. HSC Public Health Agency (Northern Ireland) - Novel Coronavirus – Guidance for Ports and Airports
  5. PHE Poster
  6. Health Protection Scotland Poster

James Scales, HSE Manager, Clarkson Port Services Limited.

For the moment Portland Port is simply following the advice circulated by the BPA, where their advice comes from Public Health England. So, other than taking normal common-sense precautions regarding washing hands and using hand gel we are continuing with ‘business as usual’. We may change that in future, but dependent on the advice that we receive from the government (through the BPA). Bill Reeves, CEO, Portland Harbour Authority.


During this challenging time Port of London Authority, share their presentation resource on top tips for staying happy & healthy at work with PSS members. Members can also request a Powerpoint version to adapt & deliver to their organisations.

Top tips for staying happy and healthy at work

In a special exclusive feature for PSS members,Dr Kate Blackford Ph.D. shares science-based resources to develop your resilience during this unprecedented time. Click below to access these resources and an offer exclusively for PSS members.

developing resiliEnce during difficult times



1) Advice Health Gateways PDF (709.2 KB) Download (709.2 KB)
2) EU Gateway - Flowchart for decision making PDF (389.15 KB) Download (389.15 KB)
3) NHS - Handwashing techniques PDF (121.74 KB) Download (121.74 KB)
4) HSC Public Health Agency - Port Health- Guidance PDF (421.41 KB) Download (421.41 KB)
5) Public Health - ports poster PDF (364.5 KB) Download (364.5 KB)
6) Scotland poster advice PDF (378.31 KB) Download (378.31 KB)
7) Guidance for Shipping and sea ports on (COVID-19) PDF (407.51 KB) Download (407.51 KB)
8) Guidance for staff in the transport sector (COVID-19) PDF (411.32 KB) Download (411.32 KB)
9) Peel Port - COVID19 Pilot Embarkation Procedures PDF (214.67 KB) Download (214.67 KB)