Shipping issues arising out of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has seen a number of advisories from P&I Clubs and industry bodies. Its virulence has created an atmosphere of fear. There are examples of crews refusing to enter ports in countries where outbreak of the disease has been reported. Owners and ports have grappled with these sorts of health issues for centuries. By way of example, the first UK Quarantine Act was passed in 1712 mandating a 40-day period before a vessel could enter port (deriving from the Italian word quarante). Public health authorities are often called on to contain or investigate outbreaks of novovirus or legionella particularly on cruise ships and most countries have legislation in place to detain ships that threaten the health of those on board or ashore. The advice currently being sent out mirrors that for SARS, which broke out in Hong Kong in 2002–2003 and is aimed primarily at keeping the crew safe and highlighting an owner’s duty of care.

The current Ebola outbreak is concentrated predominantly in West Africa, including Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, and is the largest ebola outbreak ever reported. Suspected cases have very recently been identified in Saudi Arabia, India and Rwanda. It is predicted that the outbreak will continue to spread.  

The situation is evolving and we outline below some of the legal issues that the shipping industry may face if the outbreak escalates…

 Click on the link below to read the rest of the Ince & Co briefing.

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