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The situation in Europe is changing rapidly. Sander Loef writes about working and living during the coronavirus pandemic in Rotterdam

In a way people have gone into crisis management mode, planning day by day and sometimes by the hour.

For the moment, the Dutch Government has chosen not to go in a total lockdown but to let the virus spread controllably in order to create “group immunity” which effectively means infecting eight million people here in the Netherlands. This is the current scenario, but all this could change.

Gatherings of more than 100 people are cancelled. This includes the closure of museums, concert venues, theatres, sports clubs and the cancellation of sports matches and other events.

People throughout the Netherlands are encouraged to work from home or stagger their working hours where possible. Schools and childcare centres are closed as are restaurants, cafés, bars and lunchrooms which are making deliveries only.


Any Port In A Storm

The latest situation is that despite the far-reaching social consequences of the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), the Port of Rotterdam remains operational, but is taking special measures to ensure the business continuity.

The Port supplies a big part of Europe, so it’s not only the Netherlands that will be affected if it closes, but many other countries. Currently however, Port officials are only speaking about a growth slowdown.

The GGD Rotterdam-Rijnmond (the Municipal Health Service) considers the chance of infection in the Port to be small, however the Port Health Authority Rotterdam is taking measures.

The Harbour Coordination Centre is the point of contact for ships, crew and other parties working in the Port. Parties involved include GGD Rotterdam-Rijnmond, the Port Health Centre, Erasmus Medical Centre Rotterdam (EMC), Royal Dutch Rescue Society (KNRM), Coast Guard, Safety Region Rotterdam-Rijnmond, Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, Seaport Police, Radio Medical Service, Port of Rotterdam Authority and the (State) Harbour Master. With regard to COVID-19, the Harbour Master’s Division and the GGD Rotterdam-Rijnmond have a coordinating role.

The Maritime Declaration of Health (MDoH)

As of now, all seagoing vessels must submit the Maritime Declaration of Health (MDoH). This should be sent by email to the Port Health Authority, must not be older than 24 hours and must be sent at least six hours before arrival at the pilot station. The Harbour Coordination Centre coordinates the next steps and asks the GGD Rotterdam-Rijnmond for advice regarding the report.

The Yellow Flag

In the Netherlands, the MDoH is used to report any infectious diseases to the authorities. In some countries, a yellow (quarantine) flag is used. This is not necessary in the Netherlands. As soon as a ship has submitted an MDoH and has been assessed by the GGD, the captain is informed whether additional measures are required. If a ship still flies a yellow flag, the authorities request that this be reported to the Port Co-Ordination Centre (0031 10 252 1000 or VHF channel 11).

Open For Business

People and businesses have adapted rapidly. What I’ve noticed is that the supermarket has become not only a distribution centre for necessities, but also a social gathering which is something the Government is trying to avoid.

The Dutch also know how to set priorities. The Government has issued a press release that coffee shops do not have to close, but takeaway is allowed. They’re not talking about coffee, but hashish and weed to prevent illegal street trading.


Customers queue for takeaway at a Dutch café

The most important priority is to stay available for our clients in accordance with our business continuity plan. Solis Marine does have the capability to mobilise experts, mariners and engineers in the all territories that it operates in across Europe, China and Asia.

Separately, I have prepared an emergency check list and procedures in the event that I am not able to travel in person to a fire and chemical incident or emergency. This means that I can provide real time advice and monitor any situation remotely to help clients follow the correct procedures.

Sander Loef is Solis Marine’s Fire and Chemicals Specialist based in Rotterdam. You can contact him here

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