British maritime safety specialist Survitec has recommended that current supplies of medical oxygen onboard ships are increased in the event of crews and passengers becoming ill with Covid-19.

While IMDG Code and MFAG guidelines require operators to carry 44 litres of medical oxygen at 200 bar as minimum, Jan-Oskar Lid, Global Technical Sales Manager – Fire, Rescue & Safety, Survitec, said the current minimum will not be enough in the event of a new outbreak.

“Most vessels will carry one 40 litre cylinder and two smaller two litre cylinders. A 40 litre cylinder operating at 200 bar with a flowrate of max 25 litres per minute will last for about 5.3 hours, but this is unlikely to be enough to treat more than one Covid-19 patient if a medical evacuation is not possible or cylinders cannot be quickly replaced,” he said.

A healthy adult requires about seven litres of oxygen per minute, but Covid-19 can deplete this to dangerous levels.

Depending on the severity of the infection, a single Covid-19 patient would need between two and 15 litres of oxygen per minute, Survitec highlighted.

In exceptional circumstances, Stage 4 Oxygen Escalation Therapy has required 60 litres per minute.

“Although the number of cylinders stored onboard depends on a range of factors such as number of crew/passengers, type of cargoes carried and sailing/operating area, clearly, the current minimum will not be enough to treat multiple persons infected with the virus,” Lid said.

“We therefore recommend that ship/offshore installation operators and owners increase the number of cylinders they currently have onboard.”