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 Under the agreement, the ship crews will be examined under various health indicators upon arrival.
 Under the agreement, the ship crews will be examined under various health indicators upon arrival.

Preventing Cross-Border Infections Via Marine Frontiers

Controlling marine borders prevents many serious diseases such as cholera, influenza, respiratory diseases and water-borne, mosquito-borne, or food-borne diseases from coming into the country

Preventing Cross-Border Infections Via Marine Frontiers

In a move to beef up prevention of communicable diseases, the Health Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding in Tehran with the Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran (PMO) on Wednesday, to collaborate in checking infectious diseases from crossing via international borders into the country.
“The agreement is a basis for collaboration in line with checking cross-border communication of infectious diseases that can be carried by animals, cargo, or humans,” said Ali Akbar Sayyari, deputy health minister, on the sidelines of the signing ceremony of the MoU.
He referred to the plague epidemic over 20 years ago, which entered the country through maritime borders.
“Such diseases could be transferred by the crew on ships, rodents, mosquitoes, or foodstuff being shipped,” Sayyari added.
As reported by IRNA, the MoU comes after two years of thorough research on the issue. Controlling marine borders prevents many serious diseases such as cholera, influenza, respiratory diseases and water-borne, mosquito-borne, or food-borne diseases from coming into the country, according to Dr Mohammad Mehdi Guya, director general and head of the ministry’s Center for Communicable Disease Control.
Under the agreement, the ship crews will be examined under various health indicators upon arrival at local ports before alighting. Other standard measures stipulated will also be applied.
“One of the main sources of such diseases could be the ballast water in vessels,” Guya told a press conference after the ceremony.
Ballast water is fresh or salt water, sometimes containing sediments, held in tanks and cargo holds of ships to increase stability and maneuverability during transit.
Cruise ships, large tankers, and bulk cargo carriers use a huge amount of ballast water, which is often discharged when wastewater or cargo is unloaded.  Ballast is filled up again from the coastal waters where the ship is making a call and discharged again at the next port of call, wherever more cargo is loaded. Serious problems arise when the ballast water is discharged, as water-borne organisms may create havoc when deposited in new environments.
Ballast water discharge typically contains a variety of biological materials, including plants, animals, viruses, and bacteria. These materials often include non-native, nuisance, exotic species that can cause extensive ecological and economic damage to aquatic ecosystems, along with serious human health issues including death.

 Abreast of International Standards
The agreement signed on Wednesday is in line with the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments in 2004 which regulates the discharge and charge of ballast water. It requires all ships to implement a “ballast water management plan” to control the potential environmental and health damages.
“All ships must comply with the regulations in effect and change their ballast water at a great depth (of more than 2000 meters) and as far as possible during the day, and as far away from the littoral areas as possible,” Guya noted.
Ballast water discharges are believed to be the leading source of invasive species in marine waters, thus posing public health and environmental risks, as well as significant economic cost to industries such as water and power utilities, commercial and recreational fisheries, agriculture, health and tourism.
In 1991, a form of cholera Vibrio cholerae, previously reported only in Bangladesh apparently arrived via ballast water in Peru, killing more than 10,000 people over the following three years.
Under a joint effort by the signatories to the convention, two educational courses are held for water transit personnel under the auspices of the World Health Organization on the existing capacities for prevention and timely action to control spread of infectious diseases.

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