Coronavirus outbreak: Calcutta Port Trust bans crew from getting off ships – Telegraph India

Kolkata News

Members of cargo ships’ crew will not be allowed to get off the vessels when they dock at Calcutta or Haldia as a preventive measure against the possible spread of the coronavirus.

The Calcutta Port Trust has decided to cancel “shore leaves”, permission to get off a ship to visit markets or other places in a city, of all crew members to reduce the chance of exposing a larger population to a possible coronavirus attack. The ban is already in place and even if an Indian is part of a crew, he/she will not be allowed off the ship, a port trust official said.

Agents and ship handlers planning to get on a vessel to provide the crew with food and water have been told to wear goggles, masks, gloves and jackets as a precautionary measure.

The docks in Calcutta and Haldia cater to markets in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Nepal. The Haldia dock alone handles around 70 per cent of the cargo handled by the port trust annually.

According to the shipping ministry’s figures, the Calcutta port had handled more than 18 million tonnes of cargo in the last fiscal — an increase by over 6 per cent compared with the 2017-18 fiscal.

The port trust hasn’t banned any ship from docking at Calcutta or Haldia. But there is a list of 19 countries hit by the coronavirus. Crew members of ships arriving from any of these countries will be scanned at the highest level, the port trust official said.

As a standard procedure, the port trust has engaged 80 doctors and 200 paramedics to work in two shifts at the Calcutta and Haldia docks. They will board every ship to check on crew members, he said.

“We are asking ship masters to provide us with details of all crew members, including their nationality, age, date and place of last embarkation and certain health details such as the last recorded body temperature,” Vinit Kumar, the port trust chairman, said.

If any member of the crew is found to have visited China, a team of doctors and paramedics will check on him/her, Kumar said. The team will be in special anti-virus gear.

“We are not allowing any cruise ships to enter. But there is no ban on cargo vessels,” Kumar said. “There is no major hit in terms of revenue. Since Chinese ports are not accepting ships from outside, export of iron ore from Haldia has been hit.”

There have been two instances in the past few weeks when the masters of two ships had alerted the port trust about their crew, a port trust official said.

A team of doctors and paramedics had immediately left for Sagar island, stopped the ship, boarded the vessel and checked on the crew members thoroughly before allowing the ships to reach Calcutta, the port trust official said.

More than 8,000 crew members from a little over 400 vessels have been screened so far since late January.

The port trust has started an eight-bed isolation ward at its Centenary Hospital in Calcutta and a four-bed ward at its hospital in Haldia. “There is no ban on movement of ships to and from the Andamans,” an official said.