Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

Keep Moving Forward


April 1, 2020

People who study these things say Neanderthal mariners were sailing around in the Mediterranean fifty thousand years ago. Every year since that first Neanderthal boat hit the water, propulsion technology advanced and became more efficient. Until the IMO, a branch of the United Nations established in 1948, introduced the “1997 Protocol” containing Annex VI, which set limits on NOx and SOx emissions from ship exhausts. Since then, ship propulsion has become less efficient and more expensive.

That’s life. Just when things are going well, a rogue wave pops up.

In spite of bureaucratic headwinds the commercial maritime industry continues to innovate (see our Marine Propulsion section beginning on page 22 of Pacific Maritime Magazine, April 2020 ). Cargo ships have adapted with fuel changes and research vessels have adopted engine management systems. The cruise industry has fitted expensive scrubbers to their ships to keep passengers and shoreside communities happy.

In any case, nothing the IMO can dream up could be as tough on the cruise industry as what was unleashed on the planet in China’s Wuhan Province in mid-December of last year. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is especially dangerous to those who might have weak or compromised immune systems, as well as those in their 70s and 80s – the cruise industry’s target market.

At press time several cruise ships had been infected, quarantined, rerouted and denied entry. We sympathize with the cruise industry and hope their flag states are forthcoming with aid in these troubled times.

Our mothers used to tell us to wash our hands. That was a long time ago, but, as with most of what our mothers have told us, it still applies.

We are not prone to outbursts of panic, nor are we particularly interested in biology, and so have only peripherally followed the news covering the outbreak of the nasty virus. We know the Chinese government mismanaged the response, although we may never know how badly.

In preparation for this piece we did some research on viruses, but were so creeped-out we stopped reading about them. Suffice to say they’re weird.

The good news is that experienced scientists are working on vaccines and qualified companies are producing anti-viral drugs. The bad news is that most of the world’s pharmaceuticals are manufactured outside of the US, and many are made in China. Perhaps we need a Jones Act for Big Pharma.

There are currently four FDA-approved influenza antiviral drugs recommended by CDC for use against recently circulating influenza viruses.

Relenza (zanamivir) Is distributed by UK-based GlaxoSmithKline. Their media contacts in the US don’t answer their phones and their UK Media line is non-op.

Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate) is distributed in the US by Genentech and is manufactured in both Switzerland and the United States. The drug is also available as a generic, which is manufactured in India.

Xofluza (baloxavir marboxil), also a Genentech product, is manufactured in Osaka, Japan.

Rapivab (peramivir) is manufactured by BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, a pharmaceutical company headquartered in Durham, North Carolina. The nice lady on the phone in Durham told me the product is manufactured there as well.

In any case, after four months the virus had been classed as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, also a branch of the United Nations established in 1948.

The last time the WHO announced a pandemic was in June of 2009 when they declared a global pandemic of novel influenza A (H1N1, or swine flu). The pandemic began to taper off four months later. This, too, shall pass.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected, and we know that the country’s best and brightest doctors and scientists will get the virus under control quickly. In the meantime, wash your hands.

Chris can be reached at


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