The burst of shopping that followed the initial pandemic economic contractions has skyrocketed demand for foreign goods. American ports are so crowded that in places where ships formerly had no wait times, ships are now forced to wait two weeks or more before docking. The Coast Guard has resorted to redirecting ships to stand by in areas far from their port-city destinations just to relieve congestion.
But with this fevered pace of shipping and receiving comes a much greater risk for exposure to and the spreading of COVID-19 and its variants.
On June 16, 2021, a crew member of the Northern Democrat died of COVID-19 and five other asymptomatic crew members tested positive for the virus ahead of an enforced 14-day quarantine.
And in mid-June, authorities in southern China shut down entire districts and businesses to slow a spreading outbreak of the delta variant, which was first identified in India. This extreme congestion, once cleared, will only increase the frantic international seafaring, which itself will only increase the health risks to shipping industry employees, and by extension the entire world they service.
Countries receiving shipments have all released requirements for docking in their ports, most of which include mandatory COVID testing. As international outbreaks and COVID variants increase, so too will restrictions around testing and vaccinations for seafarers.
In such uncertain times, it’s essential that shipping services continue undisrupted in their ability to move food, energy, and medical supplies across continents. This requires agility and adaptability because the new normal is defined by mindful diligence of the risks inherent in what was once normal life.
But the necessity of commerce should not blind anyone to the higher-order need to protect workers and anyone they encounter in the course of trans-continental travel. The cost of diligent testing far outweighs the cost of pretending that we’re living in 2018. And the shipping industry may bear the heaviest obligation to understand and follow through with that reality.
At Wellstand Health, we’re proud to be a driving force behind broad testing efforts. If you want to know more about how we can help you do your part and protect your employees, contact us.