How Great Lakes freighter crews are social distancing on board, and on shore
How do you practice social distancing in this era of coronavirus when you’re part of a Great Lakes freighter crew? With a special set of rules, shipping leaders say.
New protocols and precautionary measures are taking place on ships across the Great Lakes where crews are moving through more than 100 ports this shipping season, according to the Associated Press.
James Weakley, president of the Lake Carriers Association, said the shipping industry has rolled out its own set of safeguards aimed at prevention. Freighter crews are following hygiene and social distancing guidelines set by health experts.
“Not only are there formal ramifications, but there is a very informal peer pressure among our sailors that will keep people from doing anything that is unsafe and potentially cause spread,” Weakley said, according to the AP.
The Lake Carriers Association is made up of 46 American vessels that each year haul 90 million tons of cargo annually across the Great Lakes.
A few week ago, at the start of the 2020 shipping season, Weakley talked about the preparations being made. His comments were put on the LCA website:
“Since February, a tremendous team focus has gone into getting the fleet outfitted and sailing safely with healthy crews. This has been a truly concerted effort by the sailors, the vessel operators, U.S. Coast Guard, Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, public health officials, the Great Lakes dock and port operators, and service providers that keep our fleet sailing. Our first priority is the men and women sailing the vessels. Our efforts are focused on preparedness, prevention, and response to ensure their safety from the impacts of COVID-19. We’ve tried to anticipate as many contingencies as possible and prescribe the actions to counter them. This is a community effort and the partnerships we have forged are strong. The best plans are comprehensive and nimble.”
The U.S. Coast Guard is monitoring these ships as well as any international cargo vessels, especially if they’ve been in an area of the world affected by the COVID-19 outbreak in the last couple weeks.
Petty Officer Brian McCrum, spokesman for the Coast Guard’s 9th District which oversees the Great Lakes region, said these ships will be allowed to enter the U.S. only if they are not carrying sick crew members.
In addition, all crew members must stay on board these ships unless they are involved in loading or unloading cargo, or getting provisions, the AP reported.