IMO: Coronavirus (COVID-19) – advice for seafarers and shipping

Public Health Emergency of International Concern

​The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on 30 January 2020. Read more here.

With the information currently available on novel coronavirus, WHO advises that measures to limit the risk of exportation or importation of the disease should be implemented, without unnecessary restrictions on international traffic. WHO technical guidance on detection and management of ill travellers suspected of COVID-19 infection, including at ports, can be downloaded here.

Advice for IMO Member States, seafarers and shipping

WHO/IMO joint statement on the response to the COVID-19 Outbreak 

The executive Heads of the World Health Organization (WHO) and IMO have issued a joint statement on the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, available in the six official languages of the United Nations system.

Arabic Chinese ​English ​French Russian​ ​Spanish

IMO has issued the following circular letters:

  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.2 (21 February 2020) contains the Joint Statement IMO-WHO on the Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak and encourages Member States and international organizations to disseminate it as widely as possible.
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.1  (19 February 2020) provides advice on Implementation and enforcement of relevant IMO instruments.
  • Circular Letter No.4203.Add.1 (12 February 2020) provides information and guidance, based on recommendations developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Division of Healthcare Management and Occupational Safety and Health (DHMOSH), United Nations, on the precautions to be taken to minimize risks to delegates attending meetings at IMO.
  • Circular Letter No.4204 (31 January 2020) providing  information and guidance, based on recommendations developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), on the precautions to be taken to minimize risks to seafarers, passengers and others on board ships from the coronavirus. Member States are advised to urge all stakeholders (companies, managers, crewing agents, etc.) to promulgate information to ensure that seafarers, passengers and others on board ships are provided with accurate and relevant information on the coronavirus outbreak and on the measures to reduce the risk of exposure if they are likely to be engaged on ships trading to and from ports in coronavirus-affected States.

Additional advice: 

The following links also provide advice to seafarers and shipping (non-exhaustive list):

World Health Organization advice

​On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was alerted to several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. The virus did not match any other known virus. This raised concern because when a virus is new, we do not know how it affects people. One week later, on 7 January, Chinese authorities confirmed that they had identified a new virus. The new virus is a coronavirus, which is a family of viruses that include the common cold, and viruses such as SARS and MERS. This new virus has been named COVID-19.

WHO has been working with Chinese authorities and global experts, to learn more about the virus, how it affects the people who are sick with it, how they can be treated, and what countries can do to respond.

Because this is a coronavirus, which usually causes respiratory illness, WHO has advice to people on how to protect themselves and those around them from getting the disease.

WHO provides Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) travel advice here: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/travel-advice