New York - With stricter Ebola screenings for airline passengers in the pipeline, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for intense health screenings on cargo ships from all Ebola-stricken countries. Schumer said he expects the Centers for Disease Control to unveil tougher Ebola screenings on U.S. soil within the next week. Schumer said he believes these will closely follow his recommendations to the CDC, which include new policies covering “intense health screenings” for all personnel on cargo ships that have been to infected countries. Schumer said ships that have called in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia or Nigeria will have crews screened the same way passengers at airports will be — by Customs and Border Protection agents checking for any and all Ebola symptoms.
All ports in the U.K. announced they would monitor ship crews for potential signs of Ebola, as well. According to the International Business Times, the Port of Tyne, Newcastle, confirmed all shipping stations in the U.K. have been briefed on spotting Ebola symptoms and will be monitoring all those on ships that have called at ports in infected areas. Reuters reported Brazil and Argentina have also tightened screening procedures. Sen. Schumer also said the screenings could extend to any Liberia-flag vessels, as the country flags the second-largest fleet in the world.
Ships operating under the Liberian flag may not have ever called in Liberia, or any other infected country, but could sail under its registry because of Liberia’s liberal maritime policies and regulations. Fever is one of the first symptoms of Ebola infection. The incubation time for the disease, according to the World Health Organization, is anywhere from two to 21 days. Humans are not infectious until they develop symptoms, which are similar to the flu until more life-threatening effects set in.
The WHO situation report, released today, brought the total number of infected up to 8,033. The WHO said 3,879 people have died from the disease. The U.S. Coast Guard already has policies requiring crews to declare if a crewmember is gravely ill or has died from a communicable disease 15 days before the ship arrives in port. Fears of shipping transmitting the disease are unfounded, Maersk said in a late-August customer notice. Regardless, the International Chamber of Shipping released guidelines for carriers and organizations to help stave off infection.
The group recommends that crews do not leave the vessel for shore leave in infected countries, and has told ship operators to avoid making crew changes in infected countries. But whether fears are realistic or not, West Africans are concerned carriers may boycott ports of call in Ebola-stricken countries.
SeaIntel warned that though schedule reliability statistics for September have yet to be compiled, the company expects Ebola health screenings, ship quarantines and inspections to have an impact on schedule reliability. Several ships that called in Ebola-stricken countries have been quarantined and held at their destinations until inspected. Hapag-Lloyd instituted a $350-per-TEU charge on shipments to and from West Africa because of lengthy delays.
According the PIERS, the data division of The JOC Group, 6,065 TEUs have been imported directly to the U.S. year-to-date from all five countries battling the Ebola epidemic.
The top commodities imported are rubber products, cocoa beans and household goods. About half of those containers went through the Port of Virginia. The ports of New York-New Jersey, Philadelphia, Savannah and Houston also received import shipments from the five countries.