Guidance on sanitising and decontaminating marine and offshore assets exposed to Covid-19 provides confidence for operators on managing their offshore operations in a pandemic, writes ABS vice president for technology Gareth Burton
Response Measures to COVID-19 for the Marine and Offshore Industries provides best practice guidelines for sanitising assets exposed to Covid-19. It is part of a series of guidance resources provided by ABS that is helping energy 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 practice 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 sanitised 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 the ABS 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, while safely maintaining the 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 caused by 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, affecting 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 said they 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 redesign, the key is to develop protocols and procedures aimed at mitigating infectious disease risks, and to prevent or minimise impact should an outbreak occur.
Physical arrangement measures
Based on several governmental and commercial sources including the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, American Society for Healthcare Engineering, the International Organization for Standardization, and the World Health Organization, ABS has identified ways to mitigate against the occurrence and transmission of infectious diseases on board an asset. Among these physical arrangement measures are single occupancy isolation cabins, medical facilities, separated facilities for use by visitors, storerooms for infectious solid waste, cleaning agents, disinfectants and laundry rooms and support infrastructure.
Single occupancy isolation cabins with 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 and surfaces to facilitate cleaning and disinfection.
Medical facilities should be under negative pressure and 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 visitors should be considered 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 infrastructure to provide medical back-up and advice to physicians and other health care personnel should be considered. For example, telemedicine can contribute 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.
Each infectious disease outbreak is unique 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 management system.
Prevention management plan – includes measures to minimise 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 of cases on board, incident reporting procedures for informing the local port health authority, asset management, identification of risk factors, and more.
Response Measures to Covid-19 for the Marine and Offshore Industries provides guidance on effective preparation, prevention and management protocols which are critical to help mitigate the impact of any new outbreak and manage the current health pandemic.