1. Which processes and occupations in the port are considered vital?

In response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, the Dutch government has identified a number of crucial occupations and vital processes in the Netherlands that need to be maintained. Which occupations and processes are deemed vital by the national authorities, can be read here. The handling of shipping has been qualified as a vital process by the government. The Harbour Master’s Division of the Port of Rotterdam Authority has been identified as a vital provider of shipping handling services.

Entrepreneurs in the port have been wondering whether their activities are also part of a vital process or whether they employ people who work in a crucial occupation – which in turn leads to the question whether these employees are entitled to child care during the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.

The shipping handling process in a broad sense needs to be maintained.

The government has not included specific aspects of the handling of shipping in its classification as a vital process. The Port’s priority is ensuring that the shipping handling operations are maintained in its totality. That is why the vital shipping handling process can be understood to encompass more than solely the activities of the Harbour Master’s Division. In the view of the Harbour Master’s Division, the vital process of shipping handling also comprises:

(a) shipping handling and directly-related port processes; and

(b) the associated hinterland transport processes and warehousing.

After all, if the chain process is not executed in its entirety, this will lead to congestion in the port and its approaches which inevitably will result in market shortages. This in turn will disrupt the safe and swift handling of shipping traffic and destabilize society as a whole.

That is why the Rotterdam Harbour Master believes it is crucial to ensure that all chain processes subsidiary to shipping handling are being maintained. Occupational groups that are active within these chain processes and all individuals who fulfil an indispensable role within these chain processes are entitled to child care facilities during the COVID-19 outbreak.

In view of the aforementioned, the Harbour Master’s Division has determined that the process of shipping handling at any rate includes – but is not limited to – the following chain processes:

  • handling of shipping by the Harbour Master’s Division;
  • handling of shipping and nautical services (patrol and emergency response vessels, linesmen, towing services, pilots, lashers);
  • port and inland terminals for the unloading, loading, storage and handling of cargo;
  • depots;
  • checkpoints;
  • distribution/warehousing and hinterland connections, including inland shipping, rail and road transport and the traffic control services required in this context;
  • companies and organisations that support the necessary infrastructure and patrol and emergency response vessels with regard to availability, incident management, safety measures and equipment, environmental protection and maintenance;
  • companies and organisations that bear responsibility for the availability, maintenance and fault clearing of systems and platforms required for shipping handling, including the prediction of water levels and current velocities, VTS, VHF and hydro-meteorological information, telephone systems and the Port Community System.

The Port of Rotterdam Authority is of the opinion that the industrial processes in the port complex are also vital since, without the important process of industrial production in the port of Rotterdam, many essential goods would no longer be available. Whether or not a process should be classified as vital and the consequences of this qualification are dependent on developments in society. At present, we are unable to make any statements about the situation in the event of a further spread of the COVID-19 virus – which could potentially necessitate a complete lockdown, for example. For this reason, please keep an eye on the website of the Port of Rotterdam Authority for updates or subscribe to our newsletter. This ensures that you will be automatically notified of any new developments.

  1. Which processes and occupations in the port are considered vital?

The measures the Port Authority has taken on the basis of guidelines or advice from the relevant National authorities include:

Employees of the Port of Rotterdam Authority will be working from home as much as possible between 13 March and 6 April, 2020 (inclusive). The employees can be reached by email. The operational services will continue as always. The Harbour Coordination Centre is accessible 24/7, and it will remain so.

All seagoing vessels are required to submit a Maritime Declaration of Health (MDoH) before arriving at, or being piloted in, the port of Rotterdam. That procedure is already in place for cruise vessels. It does not apply to inland shipping. If a vessel is on an international voyage and intends to enter a port, it is important that it is clear whether there is a patient with an infectious disease on board. When the master of the vessel suspects that there are one or more patients on board with an infectious disease, he must report this to the Harbour Coordination Centre (tel. +31 10 252 1000) as well as the pilot as soon as possible. This is in accordance with the Public Health Act. The Harbour Coordination Centre will coordinate the steps to take.

The following information must be supplied on the standard MDoH form:

  • expiration date of the Ship Sanitation Exemption / Control Certificate;
  • number of passengers and crew members;
  • in addition, the following questions must be answered:
    • Did a person die during the voyage, with the cause of death being something other than an accident?
    • Is there a sick person on board or was there a sick person on board during the international voyage of which you suspect it was a infectious disease?
    • Was the number of sick persons during the voyage larger than normal or than you would expect?
    • Is there currently a sick person on board?
    • Has a doctor been consulted?
    • Are you aware of a situation on board that could lead to infection or the spread of a disease?
    • Were any sanitary / hygiene measures taken (such as quarantine, isolation, disinfection, decontamination)?
    • Have any stowaways been found on board?
    • Is there a sick (pet) animal on board?

In case the answer to any of these questions was ‘yes’, the master must inform the agent, pilot and the Harbour Coordination Centre. The master should mail the Maritime Declaration of Health to PortHealthAuthority@portofrotterdam.com(link sends e-mail) or fax it to number +31 (0)10 252 1600.

The completed form must be kept on board and at all times be available for presentation. The person responsible for medical care on board the vessel must be available to answer any additional questions.

In case a pilot, agent, employee of the customs, port police, military police or patrol vessels of the Harbour Master or any other employee in the port of Rotterdam, perceives signs that a patient with an infectious disease is on board of a vessel, he/she should ask the vessel to contact the Harbour Coordination Centre. In addition, the above-mentioned employees can also discuss signals regarding infectious diseases themselves with the HCC. The HCC will forward the question to the right partners within the Port Health Authority.

Quote: ‘The Harbour Master’s division monitors daily how many vessels enter and leave the port of Rotterdam. In addition, we remain in close contact with pilots, linesmen and other nautical service providers. Companies in the port area keep us up to date on a daily basis regarding the continuity of their processes. At present, we have no irregularities to report in the port area. The port of Rotterdam is fully operational’.