Singapore tightens testing regime for shore-based personnel going onboard ships

In the wake of a marine surveyor and a harbour pilot testing positive for coronavirus last week having been onboard ships in local waters, Singapore is tightening its regulations regarding shore-based personnel visiting vessels. Moreover, class society Lloyd’s Register could be in trouble if investigations show one of its surveyors breached protocols during a ship visit last week.

Singaporean authorities are investigating if there had been any breach of Covid-19 safe management measures in the two coronavirus cases last week. Preliminary investigations reveal that the marine surveyor, like a marine service engineer who tested positive for Covid-19 infection in November, consumed food provided by or with the crew onboard the ships, which was against a precautionary measure.

For the earlier case involving the marine service engineer, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has stopped the company, Master Systems Marine, from sending any of its personnel to work onboard ships. This will continue until the company can demonstrate that its employees will adhere to safe management measures onboard ships.

For the latest case involving the marine surveyor, Lloyd’s Register has suspended all its shipboard survey and audit activities. Lloyd’s Register said it will be testing all its marine surveyors in Singapore for Covid-19.

In light of the two recent cases, MPA is tightening the testing regime for all shore-based personnel going onboard ships. First, all shore-based personnel going onboard ships will need to take a Covid-19 PCR test by January 8, to give assurance that they are clear of the virus. This will cover more than 20,000 personnel. Second, they will thereafter be subject to a tighter RRT regime; they will be tested every seven days instead of 14 days previously.

Those who do not adhere to the RRT regime will not be allowed to board ships to work.

Relevant agencies will be stepping up checks to ensure compliance of Covid-19 safe management measures by companies and individuals. Individuals and companies which are found to have violated these measures will be taken to task, the MPA warned in a release. Agencies will also review the need to enhance PPE and infection control measures in the maritime sector.

For shipyards, where Covid clusters emerged repeatedly last year, new mandatory precautionary measures have come into effect. Shipyards should only issue shipyard acceptance letters to ships seeking repairs when a ship is compliant with these Covid-19 measures. In addition, shipyards should only allow shore-based personnel to board a ship for work when all crew have been tested negative for Covid-19 infection on arrival at the shipyard.

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.
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