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Drones come to the rescue in Covid battle at sea

Panagiotis Galanis reports on the the first transportation of rapid Covid tests for seafarers using drones.

The ancient Greek poet Menandros stated “το δις εξαμαρτείν ουκ ανδρός σοφού”, namely you are not wise if you repeat the same mistake. This is a saying that is even more important nowadays that most countries are currently experiencing the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although Covid-19 has resulted in significant socio-economic impacts upon every nation, we have observed a relatively uninterrupted flow of commerce primarily due to seaborne transportation of goods and services.

Safe conduct of the maritime operations should always be performed within a safety and environmental protection framework that can be enhanced by implementation of newly proven technologies. The case of mobilising drones was assessed on this basis and their effect on safety was examined with seafarer health and well-being being the prevailing critical parameters. Even with the recent positive news about the Covid-19 vaccine, we all need to maintain our protection and safety efforts.

The future of drones being used to provide goods and services to ships will one day be routine for the maritime industry. Additionally, drone technology will require a regulatory framework that includes robust guidelines, policies and operational procedures to ensure their safe and secure integration into the maritime logistics network.

Based on the above and upon completion of the desktop assessment with the involvement of American Club represented by Dr William Moore and the Hellenic Drones company, a full-scale test was recently conducted at the port of Elefsis, Greece. A project drone was selected and a kit of rapid Covid-19 tests for 20 persons was transported to a roro vessel that was anchored two nautical miles away from the port. The distance was successfully covered within four minutes without the physical interference of the human element, a need that has been created since the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic becoming a health and safety challenge to the maritime industry and especially the ship’s crew.

This full-scale test was the first of its kind and could serve as the basis for the remote delivery of Covid-19 test kits and vaccines to thousands of seafarers. This option of mobilizing drone technology should be properly considered to meet the logistical challenges the world faces as it combats Covid-19.

With several local or national lockdowns, travel restrictions and increased number of incidents and deaths, everyone should provide every possible support, effort and solution(s) to ensure we tackle this problem safely and efficiently in order to ensure safe maritime operations and minimise losses.

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