January, 2020 - Coronavirus/Wuhan Virus

  • Date: 27/01/2020
January, 2020 - Coronavirus/Wuhan Virus

A novel coronavirus

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).  A novel coronavirus is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.  At the time of writing, around 3,000 confirmed cases and 81 deaths have been recorded.  Despite attempts to lock down key areas, the spread of the disease has been spurred on by the mass travel during the Chinese New Year holidays.

Since the first reported case on 31st December, 2019, the disease appears to have spread from its origins in Wuhan across many Chinese cities and at least 44 cases have also now been reported outside China, including in Japan, Australia, SE Asia, Europe and the US. 

Practical information and guidance

At the time of writing, the World Health Organisation (WHO) does not recommend any restriction of travel or trade, though some ports have imposed additional checks and quarantine measures and China has suspended outbound transport from Wuhan and neighboring areas.  This is a developing situation and Members are advised to check up to date advice on the WHO website

To minimise the risk of infection, the WHO recommends regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

Contractual issues arising

Although the factual situation is still developing, our discussion of the legal principles involved in the Ebola crisis of 2014 is broadly applicable to the current situation in China.  Members should be alive to risks that may potentially arise when visiting the affected areas, including potential delays and expenses due to quarantine, port closure (if applicable) or black listing of ships coming from affected areas.

Issues relating to off-hire/demurrage, safe port warranties and frustration may arise. Members should also give careful consideration to any decision whether to refuse orders to an affected port and, if in doubt, seek legal advice.  

We also take this opportunity to remind Members of BIMCO’s Infectious or Contagious Diseases Clause for Time Charters which was drafted by in response to the Ebola epidemic and which the Association endorses for inclusion in charterparties as standard.

Please see the following links for additional information:

Huatai Circular, dated 29.1.2020

Budd Circular re France, dated 28.1.2020

Oasis P&I Circular, dated 29.1.2020

Members are invited to address any queries regarding the current situation to the Managers.


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