The European Commission yesterday issued guidelines to European Union member states on the protection of health, repatriation and travel arrangements for seafarers, passengers and other persons on board ships during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidelines are very far ranging, and include extensive coverage related to treatment of cruise ship passenger and crew. However, of particular interest at this time is what the guidelines say on facilitating crew changes.
“In order to keep maritime services operational, Member States should permit crew changes to take place in their ports,” say the guidelines, noting that, “as essential staff, seafarers should be exempt from travel restrictions when they are in transit to the port where they take up their duties.”
In consultation with the Commission, Member States should, in coordination among themselves, designate several ports in the Union for fast-track crew changes. The ports should be geographically dispersed so as to cover the Union and should be connected to operational airports and rail stations. Member States should envisage the possibility of dedicated or regular flight and rail operations to ensure the transport connections for crew changes, allowing for swift travel and repatriations of seafarers.
These designated ports should have nearby accommodation where seafarers could wait for arrival of the ship they should board or for their flight, train or ship if it does not leave on the same day. This accommodation should have adequate facilities to allow them to shelter in place. This should enable undergoing 14 days of quarantine before embarking and after disembarking if the Member State in question requires this and if testing is not available.
The ports should have accessible and adequate medical services available to seafarers when they embark, disembark and during their quarantine periods. They should also be equipped with accessible welfare services.
Due to the international nature of the shipping sector, the difficulties relating to crew changes are not limited to operations in the European Union. On average, around 100,000 seafarers reach the end of their employment contracts in any given month worldwide. The practice of designating ports where crew changes can take place safely and unhindered can then be shared with third countries to be implemented worldwide.
Download the guidelines HERE