Singapore has issued a way out which help address the friction in crew change among seafarers which was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to countries implementing lockdown in order to curb the spread of the pandemic, thousands of seafarers are not able to board ship or return home. The normalcy of around 100,000 seafarers joining or leaving a vessel each month has screeched to a stop in recent weeks.
For those seafarers currently stranded at sea, issue by the Maritime & Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore will bring the much awaited relief to them.
The conditions set by MPA is that, as long as the signing on and/or the signing off of the crew members are well for the past 14 days prior to joining or leaving the vessel and they had no contact with a known or suspected case of COVID-19 in those two weeks, then the crew members are allowed to leave.
However, it is not that simple as there are other conditions that the crew has to meet before they will be granted approval.
According to MPA, it will only consider allowing crew change under the following special circumstances:
- The crew has served his/her maximum time on board and no further extension of the employment contract is granted by the flag State
- Compassionate grounds e.g. death of family member
- The crew is no longer medically fit to work onboard the ship
And under such special circumstances, cargo ships may submit their requests to MPA for consideration. This includes submitting the following documents:
- Supporting documentary evidence, e.g. crew’s articles of agreement, doctor’s certification that crew is no longer able to serve on board the ship
- Travel itinerary
- Fit-to-travel certificate
- Assurance that the signing on and/or the signing off crew must be well for the last fourteen (14) days before joining or leaving the ship and has not been in contact with a known or suspect case of COVID-19 in those 14 days.
“A huge shout out to the Singapore authorities and the MPA. Some common sense being shown… Good start but we need unhindered crew changes for the workers of the global supply chain,” according to the Head of ship management firm Wallem Group, Frank Coles via LinkedIn as he caught the news from Singapore.
The founder of Singapore-based ship manager, Synergy Group, Rajesh Unni, is also looking to mitigate the crew repatriation issue by getting other crucial, strategic bunkering hubs like Houston and Gibraltar to imitate what Singapore had done. Mr Unni has asked for ship managers and owners to collectively organise crew changes at key hub ports.
On Friday (27 March), Andy Lane of the Singapore shipping advisory CTI Consultancy spoke to Splash, stressing that the time is now for governments all over the world to treat seafarers as essential workers, and grant them more freedom of movement.