The outbreak of COVID-19 made many offshore operators realize that they needed a plan for handling infectious disease outbreaks on their assets. With very little specific information available about how to handle a disease outbreak, each operator would need to create their own requirements and procedures for an outbreak. Without guidance from a governing body, this would have led to many different types of mitigation plans with varying degrees of effectiveness. 

In response, the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) published a new guide in November of 2020, the ABS Guide for Mitigation of Infectious Disease Transmission On Board Marine and Offshore Assets. (ABS, 2020) It gives  operators a very detailed resource to safely and effectively mitigate the occurrence and transmission of an infectious disease on their assets, though parts of it may be complicated to work through.

The guide details specific accommodation and workspaces, concerning their arrangement, ventilation, and interior surfaces. Any spaces that meet the requirements laid out in the guide can be given an optional notation of Infectious Disease Mitigation-Arrangements (IDM-A). This notation can be maintained through annual and special periodical surveys.

To save time breaking down all of the details in the guide, we've created this overview of the main requirements given in the guide to receive the new ABS notation of IDM-A. Our industry experts are also prepared to work with you to evaluate your specific situation. 

ABS Infectious Disease Guide Overview

The guide is broken into three sections: General, Arrangement Requirements for Infectious Disease Mitigation, and Survey Requirements. 

Section 1 - General 

This section provides a general overview of the guide's purpose and its focus on an infectious disease transmitted through the air and direct/indirect contact routes of transmission. The guide is "applicable to marine, offshore, and government assets including naval vessels, commercial vessels, drilling units, production installations, and other offshore units." (ABS, 2020, p. 6) The guide is meant to complement other disease control measures like those found in the Ship Sanitation Certificate, not replace them. Also contained within this section is the list of documents and plans necessary to submit for engineering review, and a definitions section that provides more detail on the less commonly known terms for infectious disease mitigation. 

Section 2 - Arrangement Requirements for Infectious Disease Mitigation

Section two is divided into seven specific arrangements categories:

1. Isolation Cabins

Isolation cabins are to be used to house a person who is either confirmed to have an infectious disease or is suspected of having one. The cabins are to be grouped together and situated near the end of the accommodation area with direct access to outside space. Portable Accommodation Modules (PAMs) can be utilized as isolation cabins, provided they meet the guidelines. Regular crew accommodation cabins can also be used as isolation cabins, as long as they meet the requirements listed within this section of the guide.

Notable Qualifying Cabin Features:

    • Single-Occupancy
    • Window to open air space
    • Separate Sanitary Space with toilet, shower, and a tap that is not hand-operated
    • Anterooms with direct access to the cabin to allow personal protective equipment to be put on
    • Upgraded doors from the anterooms to the cabin and from the cabin to the corridors
    • Exposed surfaces within the cabins should be of a material and construction that allows for thorough cleaning
    • Upgraded ventilation systems including negative pressure anterooms and separated exhaust from non-isolation cabins

2. Medical Facilities

Medical facilities for infectious people should be located within the accommodation block as near as possible to an entrance from the open deck. All areas of the facilities should have sealed access to minimize air leaks. The facility should have negative air pressure with a minimum of 12 air changes per hour and they should be exhausted to the open air. The interior surface should meet all the requirements listed for the isolation cabins as well.

3. Sanitary Spaces for Shore Personnel and Visitors

The guide calls for a minimum of one sanitary space to be used by shore personnel and visitors only. This space can be a PAM if it meets the requirements listed in this category and the isolation cabin category. Sanitary spaces should be located to produce the least contact possible between the crew and the shore personnel and visitors. Like the other category, the air from the area should be changed 15 times per hour, exhausted directly into the open air, and separated from ducts of other spaces. Sanitary spaces should meet the same requirements for interior surfaces as listed for the isolation cabin. 

4. Designated Office for Shore Personnel and Visitors

Like sanitary spaces, an office space should be designated for shore personnel and visitors only. It must also be located in an area that limits interaction with the crew and meets the interior surface requirements for isolation cabins. The air system should meet the requirements listed for sanitary spaces, with the exception that the air should change 12 times per hour.

5. Storage Spaces for Infectious Solid Waste

During an outbreak, there should be a designated storeroom for infectious solid waste. It needs to be located away from all other spaces and can be a portable module, as long as it meets the requirements listed in the isolation cabin and storage space categories of the guide. During an outbreak, the space should be designated as an infectious waste area but can be used for non-infectious waste when there is not an outbreak. The space should meet the interior surface requirements listed in the isolation cabin category. The ventilation system should exhaust directly to open air and be separated from other spaces' exhaust, and be a minimum of 26 feet from the nearest air intakes, natural ventilation points, doors, and windows that can open.

6. Storage Spaces for Cleaning Agents and Disinfectants

The storage space for cleaning agents and disinfectants should meet all the requirements listed for the isolation cabin and "additional design review in accordance with the ABS Marine Vessel Rules, ABS Rules for Building and Classing Mobile Offshore Units, or the IMO MODU Code/SOLAS, as applicable to the asset." (ABS, 2020, p. 17) Also, the agents and disinfectants being stored should not be exposed to sunlight. 

7. Laundry Room for Infectious Disease Area

At least one washing machine in the laundry room should be capable of a water temperature of at least 160° F and adding chlorine bleach during a bleach cycle. The ventilation system should exhaust directly to open air, and airflow should be at a minimum of 15 changes per hour. 

Section 3 – Survey Requirements 

This section breaks down the three types of survey requirements necessary for assets requesting the IDM-A notation. 

1. Initial Surveys for IDM-A 

This section outlines the process for obtaining the IDM-A notation, including ABS Engineering reviews and ABS Surveyor verifications.

2. IDM-A Annual Surveys

To maintain the IDM-A notation, annual ABS Surveyor verifications are to be performed. They will look at any structural changes that have been made since the last survey and examine at random the spaces seeking to keep their IDM-A notation. 

3. IDM-A Special Periodical Surveys

During this survey, all of the spaces will be examined instead of the random selection at the annual survey. 

This article serves as a general overview of the ABS Guide for Mitigation of Infectious Disease Transmission On Board Marine and Offshore Assets, the full ABS Guide is available here and goes into greater detail on all the requirements for mitigating infectious diseases both onshore and offshore

If you have questions about any of the requirements listed in the guide or obtaining the IDM-A notation, Specialist Services RedGuard has many subject matter experts who can help. We can also assist with modifications and conversions to existing facilities to meet the IDM-A notation, or portable accommodation modules from their fleet can be set up to comply with the requirements. Contact us today.