The Ports and Yachting Directorate within Transport Malta, the Authority for Transport in Malta, has recently issued three Port Notices addressed to stakeholders with regard to the outbreak of COVID-19.
The first notice was issued on the 3rd February 2020 to ship agents, ship owners and operators, and ship masters and crew. Under Port Notice no.4 of 2020, all ships were to provide information of ports of call of affected country/region as required by the Maritime Declaration of Health for vessels to enter port. The ship medical officer was also required to notify the Port Health Medic regarding whether any persons were coming from China within the previous 14 days and whether such persons would embark or disembark. Ship Agents/Operators and the Master of Ship were also reminded of their obligations pursuant to the International Health Regulations and the Maritime Declaration of Health to notify the Port Health Medic of any situations which could lead to the spread of infectious disease.
Subsequently, Port Notice no. 5 of 2020 issued on the 16th March 2020 addressed to ship owners and operators, ship masters and crew, ship agents, and marine terminal and facilities imposed a temporary ban on the entry of cruise liners and passenger ship into Maltese ports and territorial waters. The Authority retained discretion to grant conditional permits for vessels rendering essential services related to welfare of persons onboard, and the vessel’s safety and security on a case by case basis.
Legal Notice 92 of 2020 (Travel Ban (Extension to all Countries) Order) which came into force on the 21st March 2020 extended the travel ban envisaged in article 2(2) of the Travel Ban Order on persons coming to Malta or leaving from Malta to and from all countries. However, the proviso exempted “cargo ships including container ships and ro-ro vessels carrying goods and essential commodities and tankers loaded with essential fuels” from the travel ban. Legal Notice 92 of 2020 also empowered the Superintendent of Public Health to issue an exemption from this order for the travel of essential persons or goods. Additional precautionary measures were subsequently provided through Port Notice no.6 of 2020 on the 26th March 2020 applicable to all vessels which are cleared to operate within Maltese waters and ports, and addressed to Ship Owners and Operators, Ship Masters and Crew, Ship Agents, Bunker Barges and Service (Conveyance) Launch Operators, and Terminal Operators.
Under Port Notice no.6 of 2020, crew members are prohibited from disembarking from vessels during the vessel’s call in Maltese waters and ports. Furthermore, written authorization must be obtained from the Port Health Medic in order to allow shore personnel to board vessels. This requirement, however, does not apply to Maritime Pilots, Port Foremen, Port Workers and Terminal Personnel involved in cargo handling operations. Should personnel be authorized to board vessels, interaction with crew must be kept to a minimum. Bunker Barges and Service (Conveyance) Launches must also avoid contact with crew members. Crew of bunker barges and service (conveyance) launches and technical personnel must obtain authorization from the Port Health Medic to board vessels, subject to the mandatory requirement to quarantine after disembarkation. Furthermore, all concerned persons must report unplanned or accidental interaction with third party personnel or crew members to Port Health. Concerned persons must also ensure that berthed vessels instructed to follow quarantine are complying with such instructions. All concerned persons must report non-compliance with;
to Transport Malta and Port Health.