Borders close as COVID-19 lockdowns go into effect

Singapore harbour. Credit: Getty Images

In a response to the global pandemic, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore has closed its borders indefinitely to seafarers and passengers on short term visits as of 23:59 on 23 March 2020. Crew changes have also been banned during this period.

Singapore’s closure of borders is one among many. A shipping ministry official in India has stated that as of 13 March, 25,504 crew and passengers from 703 ships with a history of travel in COVID-19 affected regions were prevented from disembarking in Indian ports. These vessels were allowed to anchor at designated areas but no shore passes were issued to anyone onboard.

India has further restricted cargo handling, and banned the entry of any international cruise ships, crew, or passengers until 31 March. As of 23.59 on 24 March, India has declared a 21-day lockdown which will be in effect until 14 April, with no non-essential travel to be allowed during this period.

Similarly, Australia’s borders closed to all visitors, except citizens, permanent residents, and close family members, from 18 March until further notice. All foreign cruise ships are banned for a period of 30 days, with ports in Queensland additionally banning all commercial ships from entering port if the ship, or anyone onboard, has been in any country other than Australia for the last 14 days. Ports in New South Wales have banned vessels from COVID-19 affected countries. Australia’s bans on cruise ships is echoed not only by Singapore and India, but also Greece, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Oman, South Africa, and more.

As more countries close borders and go into lockdown, the global supply of goods will increasingly be impacted. The closure of ports means fewer travel routes are viable during this period, severely limiting any crew changes or resupplying. This is likely to also greatly hinder the movement of essential/ relief goods during this period. As such, although countries such as the UK have currently designated seafarers as key workers, as of 19 March, allowing them to continue to function as part of the supply chain during the COVID-19 response, the closure of country borders globally is likely to greatly affect the very possibility of their work.