Singapore has stepped up to the plate and provided a remedy of sorts to the ongoing crew change crunch brought about by coronavirus.
Thousands of seafarers have been unable to return home or board ship as countries have entered lockdown in the fight against coronavirus. Normally, around 100,000 seafarers leave or join a ship every month, something that has ground to a halt in recent weeks.
The Maritime & Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore has issued a notice that will send relief to many stranded at sea.
The MPA will allow crew to leave so long as the signing on and/or the signing off crew must be well for the last 14 days before joining or leaving the ship and has not been in contact with a known or suspect case of Covid-19 in those 14 days.
The MPA’s ruling has a number of caveats however. The port body said it will only consider allowing crew change for seafarers who have served their maximum time onboard and no further extension of the employment contract is granted by the flag state; or on compassionate grounds; or if the crew is no longer medically fit to work onboard the ship.
Under such special circumstances, ships may submit their requests to the MPA for consideration.
Frank Coles, head of shipmanagement firm Wallem Group, hailed the news from Singapore, writing on LinkedIn: “A huge shout out to the Singapore authorities and the MPA. Some common sense being shown… Good start but we need unhindered crew changes for the workers of the global supply chain.”
Rajesh Unni, the founder of Singapore-based shipmanager Synergy Group, is now trying to get other important, strategic bunkering hubs such as Gibraltar and Houston to follow Singapore’s lead to alleviate the crew repatriation issue. Unni has called for the organisation of collective crew changes at key hub ports by shipmanagers and owners.
Andy Lane from Singapore shipping advisory CTI Consultancy told Splash on Friday that it was now time that governments around the world considered seafarers as essential workers and granted them more freedom of movement.
Contrast this with the number of ships! #Shipping is keeping global supply chains open; by the tireless service of the #UnsungHeroes the #seafarers. We must insist that they can get to/repatriate from ships freely. #KeyWorkerJobs @IMOHQ https://t.co/BoJMVLWux5 pic.twitter.com/HDs3xqnKN2
— Bjorn Hojgaard (@bjornhojgaard) March 29, 2020