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Hemispheric cooperation for competitive, secure, sustainable and inclusive ports in the Americas.



The Secretariat of the Inter-American Committee on Ports (S/CIP) welcomes you to the COVID-19 best practices page for response protocols to ensure the proper functioning and business continuity of ports.

Bearing in mind the difficulties presented by the pandemic but recognizing the opportunity to develop guidelines for the response to health emergencies and other crisis, the S/CIP dedicates this page to gathering, promoting and disseminating successful practices and strategic actions implemented by our members in response to the current situation.

We are proud to be the only organization that has focused its efforts on responses from national port authorities in the hemisphere and we are confident that this compilation of recommendations and protocols/guidelines will benefit of the port community at the regional and hemispheric level.

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COVID-19 Responses and Recommendations

Important Information



(May 12, 2020) The Central American Commission on Maritime Transport (COCATRAM for its acronym in Spanish) informed the Secretariat of the Inter-American Commission (S/CIP) about the results of the survey “Impact of COVID-19 on Port Operations in Central America and the Dominican Republic," carried out between April 16 and 29, 2020, which are representative of the situation and the impact of COVID-19 in the region. It was answered by 28 ports and terminals in Central America and the Dominican Republic–Guatemala, El Salvador , Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic. The sample represents 50% of the ports and terminals of foreign trade in the scope of the countries of the survey.

To access the survey results, click here.

To access the report of the second survey on COVID-19, click here.


European Maritime Safety Agency

April 2010 – Page 8 – Maritime Accident Casebook(July 27, 2020) The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) published the COVID-19: EU Guidance for Cruise Ship Operations. The EMSA document provided recommendations related to the development of documents, port management plans and the interaction between cruise operations with ports and terminals.

To access the guide, click here.


IAPH - WPSP COVID19 Port Economic Impact Barometer

(April 9, 2020) Professor Notteboom and Professor Pallis also compiled the COVID19 Port Economic Impact Barometer, a survey that consists of six key questions and which ports are requested to report on a weekly basis. The purpose of this survey is to find and communicate port responses to COVID-19 and to produce information on useful trends and indicators for both ports and port users regarding vessel call frequency, any restrictions or delays, impact on hinterland cargo transits, storage capacity utilisation, and port worker availability. Key findings of the First Edition of the Port Economic Impact Barometer found that over 30% of the ports report extra restrictions in the last week on all incoming passenger vessels compared to 16% for all container vessels and 14% for all other cargo vessels. To learn more about the fist edition's key findings, click here.

(April 16, 2020) The survey results of the Second COVID19 Port Economic Impact Barometer show that the COVID19 crisis has resulted in over 30% of ports reporting an increase in utilisation of warehousing and distribution facilities in the last week for foodstuffs and medical supplies, whilst other ports report both over- and under-utilisation of their storage facilities, depending on cargo type. To learn more about the key findings of the second edition of the survey, click here.

(April 24, 2020) To learn more about the key findings of the Third COVID19 Port Economic Impact Barometer, click here.

(May 1, 2020) The results of the Fourth COVID19 Port Economic Impact Barometer, report stabilization and slight improvements. To learn more about the key findings of the fourth edition of the survey here.

(May 8, 2020) The COVID19 Port Economic Impact Barometer for Week 19, shows that European ports were more affected by reduced calls from cargo ships than other world regions. To learn more about the key findings of the fifth edition of the survey, click here.

(June 8, 2020) The COVID19 Port Economic Impact Barometer for weeks 22 and 23, reports of more high-frequency feeder services to regional ports, whilst many passenger vessel calls remain scrapped. To learn more about the key findings, click here.

(June 22, 2020) The Ninth COVID19 Port Economic Impact Barometer, shows that European ports were more affected by reduced calls from cargo ships than other world regions. To learn more about the key findings of the ninth edition of the survey, click here.

IAPH - Task Force on COVID-19

(April 2, 2020) In 2017, the International Association of Ports and Terminals (IAPH), CIP Associate Member, created the World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP), an initiative aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in order to assist ports around the world to improve and coordinate their future sustainability efforts, as well as foster international cooperation with partners in the supply chain in their response to challenges at global, regional and local levels.

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, WSPS established a pandemic-focused Task Force to address concerns for IAPH members and other stakeholders in the port sector. The Task Force is led by Tessa Major, IAPH Vice-President for Central and South America and Director of International Business and Innovation at the Port of Açu (Brazil). The team is made up of top-level experts who, based on their knowledge and experience, will guide the sector through this unprecedented challenge. Likewise, there are port economists who will monitor the economic effects of COVID-19.

Through a specialized portal, information provided by experts from ports such as Açu, Antwerp, Busan, Felixstowe, Guangzhou, London, Los Angeles and Rotterdam, as well as from the consulting firm, Maritime Street, and port economists, Professor Theo Notteboom and Professor Thanos Pallis will be constantly updated. This information will answer the following five frequently asked questions:

  • What is the current operational status of ports worldwide?
  • Where can I find information as a shipowner on port regulations and restrictions?
  • Where do I find operational guidance as a port based on global best practice?
  • What support should I as a port request from my government?
  • What is the economic impact on the global port sector?

For the latest version of the answers to these questions and more information from the Task Force, see here.

On the other hand, based on information collected and synthesized by the Port of Açu within the Task Force framework, the Guidance on ports’ response to the coronavirus pandemic was developed, in which ports from all over the world participated as well as members of the IAPH, sharing their best practices in handling the challenge that COVID-19 represents. Some of the ports included the Port of Hamburg, Port of Barcelona, Port of Klang, Port of Le Havre, among others.

This Guide is dynamic in nature and will be constantly updated. The first version contains best practices in the categories of operations, and governance and communication. In terms of operations, it includes, among others, home office, organization of operational teams and rotation system, fast lane and continuity of its main port activities. In the governance and communication category, it covers issues such as the creation of committees to mitigate the crisis, communication and dialogue with stakeholders and methodologies for effective and transparent communication.

To consult and share information or clarify doubts please contact COVID-19 Task Force.


IMO Recommendations

(March 27, 2020) Recognizing the importance of maritime transport services and port operations to deliver essential products, including medical supplies and food, for an effective response against the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) published Circular No. 4204 / Add.6 that lists the preliminary recommendations for Governments and relevant national authorities for the facilitation of maritime trade during this pandemic. You can find the Circular here.

(April 16, 2020) The Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Kitack Lim and the Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, issued a statement (Circular No.4204/Add.9) addressed to all States Members of IMO, the United Nations and Specialized Agencies, Intergovernmental Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations in consultative status with IMO inviting States to maintain the continuity of the global supply chain.

Due to the critical situation caused by COVID-19, there are countries that have been forced to close their ports and deny entry to reduce the spread of the virus. However, these actions have an impact on the economy and health of societies due to the reduction in the flow of all the goods included in the aid goods, as well as the technical support that is essential in these moments of crisis.

For this reason, both Secretaries General invite the communiqué to be shared with Customs Administrations, National Port Authorities and other agencies, in order to act jointly and proactively to facilitate the operation of the global supply chain and reduce impacts of COVID-19. Likewise, the IMO and the WCO have instruments and resources focused on the Coronavirus outbreak, for free consultation and use in the fight against this disease. To read the statement, click here.

(April 17, 2020) To view the IMO press release, "Customs and ports are urged to maintain the flow of critical goods during the pandemic," click here.

  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.32 (25 September 2020) - Coronavirus (COVID-19) – ICAO Harmonized guidance on facilitating passenger flights, including repatriation flights, using public health corridors during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.31 (17 September 2020)  - Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Joint Statement on the contribution of international trade and supply chains to a sustainable socio-economic recovery in COVID-19 times 
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.30 (11 September 2020) - Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Joint Statement calling on all Governments to immediately recognize seafarers as key workers, and to take swift and effective action to eliminate obstacles to crew changes, so as to address the humanitarian crisis faced by the shipping sector, ensure maritime safety and facilitate economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.29 (4 September 2020) - Coronavirus (COVID 19) – Communication from the Secretary-General regarding the crew change crisis
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.28 (26 August 2020) - Coronavirus (COVID 19) – WHO guidance to promote public health measures on cargo ships and fishing vessels
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.27 (26 August 2020) - Coronavirus (COVID 19) – Protocols to mitigate the risks of cases on board ships
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.26 (3 August 2020) - Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Guidance on the gradual and safe resumption of operations of cruise ships in the European Union in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.25 (24 July 2020)  - Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Outcome of surveys by ICS and ITF on health protection measures on board ships in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.24 (13 July 2020) - Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Outcome of the International Maritime Virtual Summit on Crew Changes organized by the United Kingdom
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.23 (1 July 2020) - Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Recommendations for port and coastal States on the prompt disembarkation of seafarers for medical care ashore during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.22/Rev.1 (25 June 2020) - Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Singapore Crew Change Guidebook
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.21 (8 June 2020) - Joint statement IMO-UNCTAD – Call for collaborative action in support of keeping ships moving, ports open and cross-border trade flowing during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.20 (5 June 2020) - Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Accelerating digitalization of maritime trade and logistics – A call to action
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.19 (2 June 2020) - Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Guidance for flag States regarding surveys and renewals of certificates during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.18 (26 May 2020) - Joint Statement IMO-ICAO-ILO on designation of seafarers, marine personnel, fishing vessel personnel, offshore energy sector personnel, aviation personnel, air cargo supply chain personnel and service provider personnel at airports and ports as key workers, and on facilitation of crew changes in ports and airports in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.17 (21 May 2020)  - Coronavirus (COVID 19) – Preparing for post COVID-19 operations: considerations and practicalities for port community systems, single window and other electronic exchange platforms
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.16 (6 May 2020) - Coronavirus (COVID 19) – COVID-19 related guidelines for ensuring a safe shipboard interface between ship and shore-based personnel
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.15 (6 May 2020) - Coronavirus (COVID 19) - Personal protective equipment
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.14 (5 May 2020) - Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.13 (5 May 2020) - Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Recommendations for Governments and relevant national authorities on facilitating the movement of offshore energy sector personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Circular Letter No.4204/Add.12/Rev.1 (29 May 2020) - Coronavirus (COVID 19) – Declaration by Port Authorities Roundtable (PAR) members in view of the global COVID-19 situation

To access all circulars, statements and communications issued by the IMO regarding COVID-19, click here.


Maritime Street - Desperate times call for smart measures

(April 7, 2020) In a global crisis such as the COVID-19 Pandemic it is crucial that measures be taken to reduce its contagion and, consequently, its impact on society.

Currently, there are regulations where trade and logistics activities require the use of paper, mainly in emerging and developing countries, putting at imminent risk all actors involved in such activities.

Pascal Ollivier, President and Founder of Maritime Street, a consultancy specialized in digital trade logistics, and CIP Strategic Partner, developed four measures for port authorities, maritime authorities, customs authorities and other government and regulatory agencies as part of the IAPH (International Association of Ports and Harbors) Task Force on COVID-19. The following measures are to reduce human contact present in activities, in order to facilitate through digitalization, the continuity of ports and maritime trade.

  1. All formalities presented by the vessels should only be sent by email when the maritime single window has not been implemented in a country.
  2. Customs authorities: For countries where regulations still indicate the use of paper documentation, customs brokers, importers or exporters should send the documentation by email when advanced customs management systems and/or single window have not been implemented in a country.
  3. Other Governmental Agencies:  All OGAs should accept certificate, permit and license applications and documentations by email only when Foreign Trade Single Window has not been implemented in a country.
  4. Beyond regulatory agencies: All private stakeholders involved in trade logistics at seaports should communicate only by email for declaration, authorization and associated documentation with public and private stakeholders for the reporting, movement and clearance of goods when Port Community Systems have not been implemented in a country.

While these are some measures to reduce contact and the risk of contagion, it is important that all parties involved do their best to really protect each other and prevent this crisis from escalating further.


Red Internacional PBIP Mexico and PROBYP - "Recommendations for the Prevention of COVID19 Contagion"

(April 28, 2020) Taking into account the provisions emanating from the WHO and the local Authorities, the Red Internacional PBIP México requested the experience of PROBYP in the development of preventive procedures in the matter of biological emergency to support associate members and maritime terminals in the different Latin American ports. It is hoped that it can serve as a reference to other terminals and allow appropriate actions to be taken to avoid the loss of human life within their facilities, communities and countries.

To access to manual "Pandemic Emergency Procedure Template COVID-19," click here.


UNCTAD - Call from the Secretary, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi

Due to the alarming situation the world is facing because of the COVID-19 pandemic, different measures have been taken that try to reduce its impact not only on the health of societies but on their economies.

On March 25, UNCTAD Secretary-General Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi expressed in a statement  his support to the International Shipping Chamber's call for action to United Nations agencies of the global maritime transport industry and their critical work in this pandemic. The industry's call urges for continued maritime trade by providing access to commercial ships and facilitating rapid crew changes.

According to UNCTAD, about 80% of global trade is carried out via maritime transport, which shows its importance, on a day-to-day basis, but especially in the current situation the world is facing.  It is not only the transport of manufactured goods or raw materials that allow the operations of the industries and companies that provide jobs to the population to stay afloat, but the transport of medical supplies that are essential in these times of crisis. This is why allowing maritime trade and cross-border transport is totally crucial.

On the other hand, Dr. Kituyi mentions transit facilitation, mainly for landlocked countries, who have access to necessary goods such as food and medical supplies through the seaports of neighboring countries. Likewise, the UNCTAD Secretary General encourages support for crews and seafarers, operators and port workers who, due to their work, are susceptible to contracting COVID-19 and are key to the continuity of maritime trade.

Fewer obstacles mean more chances of coping with the COVID-19 outbreak. Now more than ever it is important to respond to this call, take action and keep the world as connected as possible in order to reduce the burden this pandemic imposes on maritime and cross-border trade.

To access the message of the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, continue reading here.

To access PORTS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19, which includes best practices, recommendations, crisis protocol and other relevant information shared by the UNCTAD, click here.


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