Sri Lanka’s offshore crew transit hub gains traction

A public-private partnership that has been approved by the Sri Lanka government to carry out crew changes through an offshore crew transit hub (OCTH) positioned off the Port of Galle.

Sri Lanka is one of the few countries that has already appointed a ‘National Focal Point on Crew Changes and Repatriation of Seafarers’ as invited by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in its Resolution MSC.473(ES.2).  

Sri Lanka lies at the centre of the Indian Ocean straddling one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world which, coupled with regular flight connectivity to most parts of the world has made this small island ideal for crew changes.

A passenger ship has been positioned off the Port of Galle as a transit hub, called the Offshore Crew Transit Hub, for seafarers to remain till connectivity is established with the joining ship or repatriation flight.

Seafarers are not permitted to arrive in commercial passenger flights but only in chartered flights to the Southern international airport of Mattala and will be directly transferred to the Offshore Crew Transit Hub in disinfected dedicated buses. Similarly, off signing seafarers remain in the transit hub and repatriate in chartered flights, mostly in the same flight that has brought their reliefs.

Seafarers arriving by chartered flights are required to have a negative PCR report of a test taken within 72 hours of boarding the flight and certified to have stayed in isolation from the time of the test.

Since seafarers are permitted to arrive in Sri Lanka only in chartered flights and not commercial passenger flights, other avenues have been probed, especially of countries close-by that allow seafarers to arrive by commercial passenger flights. Thereafter, a chartered flight would be arranged to Sri Lanka from these locations fulfilling the requirement of Sri Lanka about seafarers arriving in the country by chartered flights. Male, in the Republic of Maldives, and Dubai, of UAE, both allow seafarers to arrive by commercial passenger flights. Any seafarer from any part of the world, just has to get to these airports and then proceed to Sri Lanka in chartered flights arranged by the operator.

The whole process has been led by the government and Avant Garde Maritime Services (AGMS), a maritime security firm.

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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