India allows foreign seafarers to sign off at its ports

India’s directorate general of shipping ruled on Friday to allow foreign seafarers to sign off at Indian ports and then to take flights out of the country. 

The ruling relates to cargo ships, not cruise vessels.

“This move will not only help India in meeting its international obligation to facilitate movement of ship crew, but would also create job opportunities for Indian seafarers awaiting to join a vessel,” Satinder Pal Singh, a joint secretary in the shipping ministry said.

Indian seafarers have been able to sign off at local ports since late April. 

Despite the news, the global crew change tracker collated by port agent Inchcape Shipping Services lists just 17 countries – not including India – as fully open for crew changes. 

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. These are articles are misleading and harmful to the crew change problems.

    UAE still does not permit incoming crew visas.

    India is impossible for flights for foreign crews.

    The so called tracker is useless. A port being open means nothing. A fully open port means even less. If there are no flights in or out, then the port is not open, yet they are reported as open. A fully open port should mean extensive flights in and out. Rest assured for most of these ports this is not the case…. AND the worst of it is…

    Data like this and in other inaccurate articles is being used by crews who then find out it is not true, so these inaccurate data points are creating stress and mental anguish for the seafarers.

    We need accurate fact checked accuracy on this reporting. We cannot afford to keep misleading crews at the expense of some port or country that lies about its openness to crew changes.

    1. So, some shipmanagers have arbitrarily and despotically decided to discontinue the crew change services, when airports are open???

    2. Completely agree with you Mr. Frank, they are misleading only nothing elase,,, creating more stress for Seafarers, Companies. There is next to impossible to arrange flight from India to other countries then what is the meaning of Foreign crew chanage allowed..

  2. Sam, Good article; however, the ISS website says: –

    Foreign crew sign off is permitted as per MHA Circular No. 25022/24/2020-Imm Dated: 17.07.2020.

    Crew will be granted TLP (Temporary Landing Permit) with validity of one month as a special case and allow these seafarers to go abroad on Vande Bharat flights or non- scheduled commercial flights or chartered flights.

    TLP for up to one month by the Immigration Officer concerned to such foreign seafarers who have expired Indian Visas subject to their having valid passport and valid seaman’s Identity document (CDC).

    In respect of Quarantine and all other health/ COVID-19 related matters, guidelines of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare shall be adhere to.

    Await Local guidelines for each port.

    Crew Change possible at Anchorage as the following Indian Ports. Goa ,Chennai, Ennore, Kandla,Sikka,Mundra,Okha,Navlakhi, Vadinar,Bedi ,Mumbai, Cochin ,Tuticorin ,Kakinada Vizag

    Crew Change p only being carried out smoothly at Sea port JNPT, KOCHI, Vizag, Gangavaram, Mumbai, Sikka, Kandla, Tuticorin, Kakinada, Bedi, Paradip, Chennai, Ennore, New Mangalore, Dhamra, GOA, Bedi, Kandla , Mundra ,Haldia , Pipavav ,New Mangalore ,Krishnapatnam, Kolkata, which is being performed smoothly.

    Please refer to the ORDER from MHA dated 29th June 2020.o Unlock down 2.0 ( MHA Circular Attached ) .

    In order to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, international travel of passengers has been prohibited under MHA’s Orders related to lockdown measures. As per information available, many persons are stranded in India who desirous to travel abroad urgently for various purposes.

    Guidelines for international arrivals

    Before boarding, all travellers shall give an undertaking that they would undergo mandatory quarantine for 14 days – 7 days paid institutional quarantine at their own cost, followed by 7 days isolation at home with self-monitoring of health.

    Only for exceptional and compelling reasons such as cases of human distress, pregnancy, death in family, serious illness and parent(s) accompanied by children below 10 years, as assessed by the receiving states, home quarantine may be permitted for 14 days. Use of Aarogya Setu app shall be mandatory in such cases.

    Dos and Don’ts shall be provided along with ticket to the travellers by the agencies concerned.

    All passengers shall be advised to download Arogya Setu app on their mobile devices.

    At the time of boarding the flight/ ship, only asymptomatic travellers will be allowed to board after thermal screening.

    Passengers arriving through the land borders will also have to undergo the same protocol as above, and only those who are asymptomatic will be enabled to cross the border into India.

    Self-declaration form in duplicate shall be filled by the person in the flight/ship and a copy of the same will be given to Health and Immigration officials present at the airport/ seaport/landport. The form may also be made available on Aarogya Setu app.

    Suitable precautionary measures such as environmental sanitation and disinfection shall be ensured at the airports as well as within the flights.

    During boarding and at the airports, all possible measures to ensure social distancing to be ensured.

    Suitable announcement about COVID-19 including precautionary measures to be followed shall be made at airports/port and in flights/ships and during transit.

    While on board the flight/ ship, required precautions such as wearing of masks, environmental hygiene, respiratory hygiene, hand hygiene etc. are to be observed by airline/ ship staff, crew and all passengers.

    On arrival, thermal screening would be carried out in respect of all the passengers by the

    Health officials present at the airport/ seaport/ land port.

    The passengers found to be symptomatic during screening shall be immediately isolated and taken to medical facility as per health protocol.

    The remaining passengers shall be taken to suitable institutional quarantine facilities, to be arranged by the respective State/ UT Governments.

    These passengers shall be kept under institutional quarantine for a minimum period of 7 days.

    They shall be tested as per ICMR protocol available at https :// in/pdf/Revised testing guidelines. pdf

    If they test positive, they shall be assessed clinically.

    a. If they are assessed as mild cases, they will be allowed home isolation or isolated in the Covid Care Centre (both public & private facilities) as appropriate.

    b. Those having moderate or severe symptoms will be admitted to dedicated COVID Health facilities and managed accordingly.

    If found negative, they shall be advised to further isolate themselves at home and self-monitor their health for 7 days.

    In case, any symptoms develop they shall inform the district surveillance officer or the state/national call centre (1075).

    NOTE: States can also develop their own protocol with regards to quarantine and isolation as per their assessment.

    As on date

    Order REF F. No. 7-NT (72)/2014 / Date: 17.05.2020

    Clarification to DGS Order No. 12 of 2020

    Subject: Standard Operating Procedures / Protocols (SOP) for controlled crew change – reg.

    DGS Order No. 12 of 2020 dated 22.04.2020 has been issued to provide detailed Standard Operating Procedure / Protocol for sign-on and sign-off of Indian crew at Indian Ports. Para 5 (2) (7) of the SoP in respect of sign-off states that “Seafarer arriving on a vessel from any foreign port within 14 days of departure from foreign port shall be kept in quarantine for a total of 14 days from the date of departure from the last foreign port at a facility approved by the Port or State authority. On completion of 14 days, he shall undergo a COVID-I9 test to confirm ‘negative’ test.”

    In the said regard, it is clarified that the above said para requirement is only applicable for vessels arriving from any foreign port. Seafarers on board Indian flag vessels operating exclusively on the Indian coast, harbour and Exclusive Economic Zone (SEZ) are NOT required to undergo quarantine of 14 days, post disembarkation from such a vessel, if the seafarer is tested negative for COVID-19 and is asymptomatic and subject to compliance of all listed conditions for controlled crew change as stipulated in DGS Order 12 of 2020 dated 22.04.2020 and its addendum.

    Also, it is noted that seafarers serving on board tugs, pilot launch, mooring boats etc. operating exclusively within port limits for port operations are being asked to undergo quarantine of 14 days, post disembarkation from such vessels. Seafarers serving on board the said vessels which are operating exclusively within port limits are NOT required to undergo quarantine of 14 days, post disembarkation from such a vessel. The said seafarers are to be treated as port staff and necessary quick clearances and facilitation shall be provided by the ports for crew changes as applicable.

    It is also further instructed that Master shall ensure that all Indian seafarers serving onboard shall maintain daily records for temperature, pulse, blood pressure and respiratory rate. These said records are to be produced to appropriate authorities on request.

    Please refer to the respective Port location document for further information on each state.

    Therefore, crew changes are possible; however, they are just really difficult.

  3. This is nothing short of window dressing and making a global situation into an opportunity. Foreign seamen can offsign, but foreign seamen cannot fly in to join their ships. So does the vessel sail shorthanded…? Is IMO aware of this?
    Now we come to the devilishly cunning thought that foreign seamen can off sign and be replaced by Indians thereby creating jobs for Indian seamen; next, we find other countries doing exactly that – so we have to simply give up the doctrines of ISM with new crew if every possible nationality meandering in and out of vessels as they go from country to country.

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