India has taken moves to get crew to and from ships on local shores with pressure now growing on the government to make similar repatriation moves overseas.
The country’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued standard operating procedures (SOP) to make coronavirus testing mandatory for Indian crews coming in or out of a port in the country as part of its relaxation measures during the coronavirus lockdown.
For vessels coming from any foreign port or a coastal vessel from any Indian port, the master of the vessel will have to report the state of health of each person on board and submit a temperature chart before the crew receive the coronavirus tests.
Any seafarer who tests positive for coronavirus will be dealt with according to the procedures issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and for those testing negative, transit passes will be issued. Likewise, seafarers will only be allowed to sign-on to a vessel only if the coronavirus test is negative.
“Change of crew of the ship is an important measure for the operation of merchant ships. This SOP has been formulated to streamline the sign on/sign off of Indian seafarer at Indian ports for merchant shipping vessels,” the MHA said in a release.
While applauding the decision by the Indian government, Captain Rajesh Unni, founder of Singapore-based shipmanager Synergy Group, urged the Narendra Modi administration to make the move overseas too. Unni, who has been one of the most vocal champions to get crews repatriated during the coronavirus crisis took to Twitter today, asking the government to extend e-passes to Indian seafarers signing on/off in foreign ports.
“Needless to say, they will all have to undergo coronavirus testing before boarding flights and adhere to local,” Unni pointed out.
In related news, India’s shipping ministry has offered a relief package to terminal operators at state-owned ports, allowing them to defer their revenue share, royalty and equipment hire charges during the period from April to June without any interest.
India has extended the current lockdown to May 3 to control the spread of coronavirus.