Singapore issues further relaxation on crew change

Singapore is using artificial intelligence to test its upcoming Tuas mega port. Credit: MPA
Aerial view of Singapore port. Credit: MPA

The Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore is further relaxing its restrictions on crew change in the city-state’s waters.

In addition to the earlier criteria announced in March, the MPA is also allowing crew change for seafarers whose employment contract has expired, additional crew whose sign-off would not affect safe manning of the vessel, change of crew due to the sale or purchase of the ship, and personnel who are not part of the ship’s crew, such as superintendents and engineers.

The MPA said that it worked with the Singapore Shipping Association, Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union (SMOU), Singapore Organisation for Seamen (SOS), and the industry as well as other government agencies to enhance the existing procedures.

“MPA appreciates the collaboration with shipping companies to effect the many cases of crew change. Our procedures have also allowed us to attend to crew that require emergency medical care,” said the MPA in a circular.

To be eligible, the seafarers must not have gone ashore in the last 14 days before leaving the ship, and remained well throughout that period. The seafarers must also be certified by a doctor in Singapore to be fit to travel, provide proof of expiry of employment contract, or a medical certificate showing they are unfit for work. Relevant documents regarding the sale and purchase of the ships must also be provided where applicable. The seafarers must also show that they had been quarantined for 14 days before and tested negative for novel coronavirus (COVID-19) within 48 hours before leaving their home country.

The crew must also be transferred directly between the ship and point of arrival/departure in Singapore.

The ship concerned will not be allowed to depart Singapore until the sign-off crew has departed Singapore and/or the sign-on crew has boarded the ship.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, crew change has been challenging as governments are concerned that infected seafarers could result in imported cases of the potentially fatal respiratory ailment.

However, there are also concerns that seafarers kept ashore for prolonged periods may develop mental distress, with the International Transport Workers’ Federation, International Chamber of Shipping, and International Maritime Organization calling on governments to recognise seafarers as essential workers.

Kuba Szymanski, secretary general of InterManager, stressed that governments can also help with the issue of crew changes, which hampered by COVID-19-related port closures and restrictions. He added that this is one of the shipping industry’s main priorities.

Although there are instances of crew changes being carried out safely, as published in a league table created by InterManager, Szymanski maintains that it is now the responsibility of governments to come to the aid of seafarers. “This is the root cause, if the governments start acting, then the airlines, charterers, and owners will come online, and so on,” he said.