All precautions taken in handling cargo; over 43,000 crew, passengers not allowed to disembark

All precautions are being taken in handling export-import (EXIM) cargo at ports and more than 43,000 crew and passengers have not been allowed to disembark since January 26, in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, a shipping ministry official said.

“Stepping up measures to contain the spread of deadly coronavirus, the government has so far prevented over 43,000 crew and passengers onboard about 1,300 ships from disembarking on Indian shores and arranged for safe transport of EXIM cargo,” the official told PTI.

Apart from restricting cargo handling, and scanning passengers and crew, the government has prohibited the entry of any international cruise ship, crew or passengers with a travel history to coronavirus-hit countries post-February 1, 2020, to its major ports till March 31.

They have not been allowed to disembark as a precautionary measure to contain any possible spread of the virus.

They were allowed to anchor at designated places, but no shore passes were issued to such crew and passengers post-January 26, the official said.

As per the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO), all passengers and crew aboard the vessels are being scanned, and all necessary facilities are being extended to them, the official said.

All required protocols are being followed and help is being provided in case of fever or sickness, the official added.

India has 12 major ports — Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (earlier Ennore), V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) — which handled 699.04 MT of cargo during 2018-19.

There are about 200 non-major ports under the control of states.

The government in February had directed all 12 major ports to immediately put in place screening, detection and quarantine system for disembarking seafarers and cruise passengers as a preventive measure against the coronavirus outbreak.

Directions had also been issued to ports to procure N-95 masks as well as thermal scanners to screen passengers, besides obtaining self-declaration from arriving crew/passengers.

To prevent the spread of the deadly virus, the ministry had said it will allow only such international cruise ships which had intimated their call to ports by January 1, 2020.

“Only those international cruise ships which had planned and intimated their call to an Indian Port not later than 1st January, 2020 will be allowed to call on such port,” it said.