Coronavirus scare in Kerala puts Chennai port on high alert

Chennai Port is on high alert in the wake of the rapid spread of coronavirus, whose first confirmed case was reported from Kerala.

A review meeting headed by Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping, was held on Thursday afternoon via video conferencing, where all major port officials in India, maritime State governments and officials from the health ministry, took stock of preventive care and standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be followed in the event of any emergency, including evacuation, isolation and treatment of suspected crew.

P Raveendran, Chairman, Chennai Port Trust told, “Port Health Organisation (PHO) received instructions to screen the ships and crew coming from China on January 17 and since then, we screened a total of 240 crew from 13 Chinese ships. So far, there hasn’t been any problem. However, we have beefed up the screening protocol, procuring additional thermal scanners, personnel protective equipment and N95 masks.”

He said that Chennai Port hospital has been equipped with a quarantine ward and for follow-up treatment, Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital has been identified by the PHO to manage suspected coronavirus cases.

Since Chennai, Ennore, Kattupalli and Karaikal ports receive many ships, crews and passengers from China, Hong Kong and Singapore, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has asked all the points of entry i.e. airports and ports, to be on alert for a possible importation of coronavirus into India.

Chennai Port, especially, that has container terminals, is an important destination for large Chinese container liner vessels. In fact, a full container Chinese vessel ‘Xin Chi Wan’ has arrived from Singapore at Chennai Port.

Raveendran said a workshop was organised on Thursday for all the stakeholders including shipping agents, representatives of container terminals, customs, immigration, Navy, Coast Guard, etc. “All were briefed about SOP to be followed and roles and responsibilities of the different stakeholders.”

Besides SOP for ports, Chennai Port has formulated a separate three-level SOP for its personnel handling vessels and crew coming from China. As Chennai port is expected to get increased passenger traffic from March, a dedicated thermal scanner for screening the passengers at Cruise Terminal and pre-immigration area, is being put in place. Besides, another scanner is proposed at the domestic terminal for Andaman passengers, who are also screened for embarkation.