Philippines auto-renews seafarers document validity by a year

Filipino sailors on board a container vessel entering port. Credit: Jalens/Joachim Affeld

With the COVID-19 pandemic showing no sign of slowing, the Philippines has extended the validity of the International Convention on Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) certificates held by Filipino seafarers for one year.

The Philippines, being a major crew change hub, made this extension effective from 1 September 2020 as part of its temporary contingency measures.

The regulator, the Maritime Industry Authority, said all STCW certificates, which are expiring between 1 September 2020 and 31 December 2020, will be extended for a period of one year from the date of expiry without the need for filing for a renewal application.

All Filipino seafarers, who are on board or ashore at the time of expiry of their certificates and are compliant with the provisions concerned, are eligible.

However, the seafarers need to have a completed, approved seagoing service performing duties appropriate to the certificate held, either for a period of at least 12 months in total during the last five years prior to revalidation or for three months in total during the last six months immediately prior to revalidation, to be eligible for the automatic extension.

The seafarers also have to meet the standards of medical fitness specified in the concerned STCW code at the same time.

A similar automatic extension of document validity for a period of six months is applicable for Myanmar’s seafarers, who are engaged in international voyage.

According to a notification of the Myanmar Department of Marine Administration, the validity of seafarers’ documents, which are scheduled to expire between 1 March and 30 September 2020, will be extended automatically for six months from the date of expiry.

“The individual seafarer will not have to submit an application for the extension,” said the notification.

Sri Lankan seafarers whose documents’ validity is expiring before 1 October 2020 are also applicable for an auto-extension of six months from the scheduled expiry date of their respective certificates.

Meanwhile, Malaysia has revoked the provision of automatic renewal of seafarers document effective from 1 August.

The Director General of Marine, in a notice on 6 August, said existing seamen identity cards of seafarers on board, medical examination certificates, Malaysian seafarers’ certificates of competency, Malaysian crew articles, and other documents will no longer be automatically extended.

The notice asked shipping companies to sign off crew whose Seafarers’ Employment Agreement (SEA) has reached a total of 13 months in the existing crew agreement.

No representative of the Association of Malaysia’s Maritime Professionals or the National Union of Seafarers of Peninsular Malaysia responded when approached for a comment on revocation of the facility.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has further expanded the criteria for facilitating crew change in its ports.

Effective from 1 September 2020, the MPA now considers the following circumstances for accepting crew change applications: crew whose employment contract has expired, additional crew on board whose sign-off would not affect the safe manning of the ship, and change of crew due to the sale or purchase of ship.

Furthermore, the personnel who are not part of the ship’s crew, such as superintendents and service engineers, and crew no longer medically fit to work on board the ship are also eligible. Crew change on compassionate grounds – for example, death of family member – are also permitted.