In February, Stena Line decided to put all personnel who had been in Asia in two weeks’ quarantine and started looking for protection equipment in the form of gloves and face masks. Jörgen Lorén, maritime safety and security officer, described the situation.
He says that Stena Line had started COVID preparations as early as three years ago when a working group that he leads decided to produce a manual for how to manage various types of infections. When signals about COVID-19 began to reach the rest of the world from China, Stena was quick to take action.
“One of the first decisions was to put all our employees who had been in China and Asia in quarantine for 14 days,” says Jörgen Lorén. “At an early stage we started checking out how to get enough materials such as disinfectant and gloves, and we bought face masks. We wanted to be prepared for the changes and rules which were on the way.”
There were various forms of collaboration within the shipping sector to try to find ways forward and survive the crisis.
“Something we did quite early was to contact the Public Health Agency and other government agencies to give them our proposals on measures we could take to resume services,” says Jörgen Lorén.
The proposal included disinfection of hot spots that many people touch and the installment of different types of protective barriers between staff and passengers. Assessments were also made of how many passengers could be on board while maintaining sufficient COVID-19 safety.
“We carried out this study while they were still on board and decided that around 50% of passenger capacity would be a safe number. That was what we thought in the spring and that is where we are at the moment,” says Jörgen Lorén and continues.
“It is a challenge for us to take passengers on board, especially when they embark and disembark, as well as walking up and down the stairways in the ships. We try to separate passengers and encourage them to keep a safe distance from each other as much as possible.”
Poor coordination within the EU
The fact that the EU was not able to coordinate restrictions and recommendations during the pandemic made the situation worse for shipping, according to Jörgen Lorén. He says that different countries had different rules and codes of conduct which were very difficult to follow, particularly those in the UK.
“In the area around the UK it was absolutely appalling. It was incredibly difficult for us to get any clarity on how to act.”