UK MCA to issue exemptions for expiring certificates due to COVID-19

Port Klang, Malaysia, one of the countries that have announced restrictions on letting crew disembark. Credit: Port Klang Authority

Guidelines outlining a contingency plan for crew to remain compliant while they are unable to disembark vessels due to COVID-19 has been published by the UK’s Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA).

The guidelines detail that shipowners or operators should apply for exemptions or extensions of manning certificates for crew stuck onboard due to local government restrictions. These include the Certificate of Competency (CoC), Certificate of Equivalent Competency, and the Seafarers Employment Agreements to avoid non-compliance. For example, the MCA can provide an extension of up to six months for an expired CoC for seafarers working on UK flagged vessels if the certificate has expired while the seafarer is onboard.

The MCA guideline stressed that the ship management company, “needs to ensure that the seafarers are sent home at the first available opportunity. Evidence should be retained by both the seafarer and the company clearly demonstrating the reason why the seafarer was asked to extend their contract.”

Further, the MCA will issue Safe Manning Documents (SMD), and subsequent exemptions in digital format for speed, “Where it can be demonstrated that a crew member is required to depart a vessel due to the virus and the ship owner/operator is unable to replace them, exemptions to SMD will be considered on a case by case basis. Each request should be supported by risk assessment from the company.”

For the access to the full guidelines, please click here.