Sat | Aug 8, 2020

SAJ coordinates industry response to coronavirus

Published:Tuesday | March 17, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Aerial view of Newport West Community
Port Bustamante
Some of Kingston’s Logistics Facilities

The Shipping Association of Jamaica has activated its emergency response plan in recognition of the need to protect its staff, members and business in the face of the threat posed by the novel coronavirus, Covid-19.

Actions taken so far include researching and verifying intelligence on the virus and then disseminating all official communiqués from the Ministry of Health and Wellness to inform employees and members of proper methods to avoid, and mitigate the effects of, the virus.

The association recognises that there is a considerable amount of false information available on social media, and so its efforts are aimed at countering such sources with credible information that will assist its staff and members to stay healthy rather than resort to panic responses.

At a macro level, the association has stressed its support of the work and guidance of the Quarantine Authority of the Ministry of Health and Wellness as the shipping industry’s first and very effective line of defence against the virus. The Quarantine Authority requires and receives information on passengers and cargoes arriving in Jamaica by sea, and conducts rigorous risk management to ensure that the virus does not spread from vessels, the crews, passengers and cargoes that arrive at our ports. The association has called upon its members to continue lending their support to such activities.

At a local level, the association has taken the decision to restrict business travel; and further require that any staff member who undertakes foreign travel during the period of heightened concern should properly notify the association of such intention or completed travel, and provide evidence of medical clearance before returning to duty.

Guidelines implemented

In its own offices, the association has placed the guidelines supplied by the Ministry of Health and Wellness in highly visible locations; highlighted the locations of facilities for proper handwashing, and placed hand sanitisers in appropriate locations. Its staff is being encouraged to limit social contact with colleagues and customers, and to follow the guidelines provided by the ministry.

Members have been advised to activate business continuity strategies and, where possible, to consider remote working for staff who can be enabled to do so. The association has also taken the decision to facilitate remote working among its own staff whose work does nor require daily physical attendance at the office. We will review how long this policy will be followed in two weeks’ time, and our staff will be advised on whether it will continue beyond that schedule.

Our managers and senior staff have been sensitised to update themselves with the credible information that we have obtained, and have been empowered to take decisions relative to their levels of authority and communicating to staff in a balanced way our policies and actions related to risk mitigation.

As the presentative organisation of companies that are part of the supply chain of the country, we have kept close to the members of the association to understand their own challenges and responses, and to support their efforts to ensure that the country as a whole can rely on the shipping community for goods and services of a general and critical nature.

Clearly, this is an evolving situation and while no guarantees can be given, our industry partners are cognisant of the extreme reliance our country places on us to deliver. Hence, member companies are putting in place their own strategies to ensure continuity of their businesses in the face of the threats posed by the virus.

We will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional guidance as it develops. Our board has established a team to give oversight to our mitigation and response efforts, and to learn from the effects of the coronavirus on our industry as a means of strengthening our responses to future threats.