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Singapore warns crew coronavirus tests are being tampered with as HK reviews its seafarer stance

Singapore has warned coronavirus tests for crew coming to the city-state have been altered or tampered with, something could could add another kink in carrying out crew changes at the key shipping hub. Elsewhere, in Hong Kong, an early champion of crew changes, there is a growing public backlash to the free movement of seafarers as the city endures a third wave of the pandemic.

All vessel owners, operators and manning offices have been reminded this week by the Maritime Port Authority (MPA) to strictly comply with the crew change regulations as communicated by MPA as any non-compliance may result in both the vessel’s owner/operators/manning offices and their appointed local agency being either suspended or banned from making future crew change applications.

Continued incidences of crews who are screened positive for Covid-19 will lead to a complete shutdown of crew changes in Singapore

In a note yesterday, the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) warned that there had been fresh cases of crew arriving in the republic with Covid-19 symptoms, while port agent GAC reported the MPA is concerned with the number of tampered coronavirus tests for incoming crew.

“There is a clear and present pattern whereby seafarers (individually) and crew & manning operators/companies, are not seriously taking the protocol of self-imposed isolation (minimal of 14 days) when being rostered for crew change,” SSA warned, adding that continued incidences of crews who are screened positive for Covid-19, will lead to a “complete shutdown” of crew changes in Singapore.

Singapore continues to attract criticism for its many restrictions over crew repatriation. The country is not one of the 17 listed nations to have fully opened up for crew changes, according to the daily updated global crew change tracker compiled by port agent Inchcape Shipping Services.

In a note to members yesterday, Kuba Szymanski, secretary-general of Intermanager, the third-party management association, hit out at Singapore’s tough 48-hour coronavirus test rule. Singapore gives incoming crew just 48 hours to find a flight from the moment a test is done, not from the moment the results are received.

“There is absolutely no appreciation of the difficulty this rule creates but also their approach is everything but human-centric,” Szymanski wrote in his latest broadside aimed at Singapore.

Szymanski told Splash last month how politicians and officials in Singapore – as well as Dubai – had been doing a lot of talking, but little concrete action to get crews repatriated.

“Singapore and Dubai have always been saying we’re the best hubs in the world, we’ll do anything for you but when the difficult times hit they have proven to be lacking,” Szymanski said

In related news, there is growing concern that public pressure might make crew changes harder in Hong Kong, one of the early backers of crew changes.

Hong Kong has received enormous praise from the maritime community for its comparitively early decision to open up its waters and airport for crew change. However, as the city battles its third wave of the pandemic, local media has started to point the finger of blame for the latest spread of the virus to the many airline and seagoing crew who have rotated through the Special Administrative Region. Hong Kong has now dropped off the Inchcape list of open places for crew change as the city has decided to ban crew changes for ships with no planned cargo operations with the SAR’S waters.

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. On board, the protocol of isolation requires an important increase in the amount of personal protective equipment. This equipment is made in China but shipmangers do not have the capacity to import enough material and send it on board.

  2. Good article Sam. I hope this gets the message out to the wider public, that think it is fat cat owners & penny pinching ship managers who are preventing crew changes from taking place, due to the expense. It is the draconian measures that are in place, in ports like Singapore, that make it virtually impossible for crew changes to go ahead. We had an owner that was willing to delay their vessel in Singapore, to allow a crew change to take place last week, but, then, we had to cancel this, as we could not book a room in one of the two hotels only that are available to accommodate crew in Singapore. The ridiculous part about this is that Singapore was reassured by both SOS (Seacare Hotel) & Posh (Posh Baewan) that they could handle the demand. They cannot! They are nowhere near big enough facilities to handle the amount of crew changes that are taking place at any one time. This lunacy has to end soon. Crew cannot continue to be made to suffer!

    1. Why don’t shipmangers tender your resignation? Obviously you are overwhelmed and do not have the necessary skills.

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