Marshall Islands: All vessels must carry a medicine chest onboard

The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) has issued a medical care guide explaining the requirements for medicine chest and recordkeeping onboard and key responsibilities and training for medical care.

The Maritime Labour Convention has established standards for medical care on board ship and ashore. The Marshall Islands highlights that all vessels must carry a medicine chest and related guidance on the medicines and medical supplies that should be maintained on board is provided in the International Medical Guide for Ships and its Quantification Addendum published by the WHO.

In particular, with regards to the carriage for medicines and medical supplies, the following should be considered:

  • All vessels must stock their medicine chests so that the inventory (types, dosage and quantities of medicines, medical supplies, and equipment) is appropriate to the particular vessel’s route, operation, and number of persons on board.
  • All vessels greater than 500 gross tons must, in addition to any other requirement, provide commercially available first aid kits for their engine room and galley.
  • Vessels, including passenger ships, carrying 100 or more persons, and ordinarily engaged on international voyages of more than three days’ duration are required to carry a qualified medical doctor responsible for providing medical care.
  • For mobile offshore drilling units and mobile offshore units, the requirement for a doctor on board may be met with a qualified medic or nurse where the unit is within helicopter range to shore medical services and facilities.
  • The exact inventory of medicines, medical equipment and supplies should be determined by the ship owner or operator in consultation with a qualified medical practitioner, such as the ship’s doctor or pharmacist.
  • Ships, including ferries, carrying dangerous cargoes or their residues, must additionally comply with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code and the guidance in the latest edition of Medical First Aid Guide for Use in Accidents Involving Dangerous Goods (MFAG).
  • Where a cargo, classified as dangerous, has not been included in the most
    recent edition of MFAG, the necessary information on the nature of the
    substances, the risks involved, the necessary personal protective devices, the
    relevant medical procedures, and specific antidotes should be made available
    to the seafarers via the ship’s occupational safety and health policies.

There is a high risk of a medical emergency occurring aboard any passenger ship even for those cruising just for a few hours. To facilitate the care of passengers on these types of ships that do not normally carry a medical doctor, particularly ro-ro passenger ships, an Emergency Medical Kit should be carried.