THE Panama Canal said it is closely monitoring the evolving coronavirus outbreak and has
adopted measures to protect its personnel and prevent further spread of
Arriving ships have been required to
report if they have visited countries with confirmed cases prior to
their arrival. This builds off, and has been followed by, a series of
additional actions taken at the waterway.
Canal's inspection and control personnel work to ensure compliance with
regulations on health and prevention of contagious diseases within its
waters, said the canal authority's press release.
These inspections for contagious risk issues have been carried out for
years and are required for all vessels that arrive in the Panama Canal
Vessels are required to report its conditions on board and does so
through the Panama Maritime Single Window System (VUMPA, its acronym in
Spanish). In the case of non-compliance and/or providing false
information, the vessel is subject to penalties and/or restrictions.
A Panama Canal admeasurer embarks and confirms the questions included in
the Maritime Health Declaration through a form previously completed in
The admeasurer also questions once again the vessel's captain or officer
in charge in order to reconfirm that there are no sick people or
crewmembers showing symptoms on board.
If there are any confirmed or suspected cases on board and depending on
the symptoms it is concluded that there is a relevant disease on board,
the Maritime Health Unit of Panama's Ministry of Health (MINSA, its
acronym in Spanish) is called onboard. During this time, boarding and
disembarking is prohibited for people and the yellow flag is flown,
denoting that the ship is under quarantine.
Next steps are determined following MINSA's inspection. In response to
COVID-19, the following additional measures have also been taken at the
Vessels are required to report if and when crew changes occurred within
14 days of arrival at ports with COVID-19 cases to MINSA.
Panama Canal admeasurers must contact vessels via radio before boarding
to confirm all crewmembers onboard are healthy and to verify any recent
Panama Canal personnel are equipped with masks and alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel.
Constant communication is maintained between the Panama Canal and MINSA's maritime health doctors.
MINSA has sent a communication to all shipping companies, requiring that
they report any person who has any illness-related symptoms, regardless
of whether or not they are related to COVID-19.