Over 4,000 crew-change cases have been approved for seafarers during Covid-19 period: MPA

Singapore

AMID the Covid-19 crisis, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on Friday said it has approved more than 4,000 cases of crew change for seafarers since March 27.

These cases of crew sign-on and sign-off were facilitated for over 300 companies, and involved some 500 ships that include tankers, bulk carriers, container ships and offshore vessels, MPA said in a statement.

It added that despite the pandemic, it had continued to facilitate the disembarkation of seafarers on medical grounds, for compassionate reasons and for contracts which cannot be further extended. It had also continued to facilitate medical treatment of seafarers who required emergency attention.

Together with several other government agencies and shipping companies, MPA facilitated a second chartered flight for a crew change on Friday. A total of 54 crew members onboard a flight from Mumbai, India, are due to join six ships in the Port of Singapore; 87 crew members will take the return flight back to Mumbai.

"The use of such chartered flights offers a direct passage to facilitate crew changes in a safe and efficient manner during this period," said MPA. Two more chartered flights for crew change are scheduled to take place this week.

MPA said it has also been working with other government agencies, unions and the shipping industry to facilitate and support the crew-change process.

An industry taskforce led by the Singapore Shipping Association, in partnership with Singapore Maritime Officers' Union, recently published a guidebook that details a set of procedures for a "safe corridor", which enables crew changes to be carried out in a safe environment to minimise the risk to the health of the local public and that of the shipping community, said MPA.

MPA chief executive Quah Ley Hoon said: "We have seen a sharp increase in the daily crew-change applications since our last Port Marine Circular. As a major port state, Singapore has a responsibility to facilitate crew change in a safe manner for both the country and the ships, given the ongoing pandemic."

Ms Quah added that MPA will continue to work with the industry and unions on more solutions, one of which is a floating holding facility for crew. Details will be finalised soon.

Esben Poulsson, chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping, said: "Given the enormous global scale of the problem, let alone the serious implications of governments not dealing with crew change as a matter of the greatest urgency, we hope that Singapore will continue to take a leading role and, at the same time, continue to work with the industry to review the protocols."

MPA said it will continue to review the crew-change procedures, taking into account Singapore's circumstances and the global situation.