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Crew change restrictions tighten around world as new Covid-19 strains spread

Crew change restrictions tighten around world as new Covid-19 strains spread
Paul Berrill 6 January 2021

A number of countries are making rules governing seafarer movement stricter as virus rebounds but none have gone as far as Philippines ban yet

Several countries have adopted stricter crew change restrictions in the first week of 2021, although none have yet gone as far as the Philippines’ ban on seafarers from 21 nations.

The mounting new restrictions come as the Covid-19 pandemic's impact on crew change has already been a major challenge for the better part of the year.

They follow the emergence in recent weeks of new variants of the virus, particularly in South Africa and the UK, which has entered its third coronavirus-related lockdown.

Countries tightening up their restrictions include Japan, China, South Korea, France, Singapore, Russia, Indonesia, Reunion and Mauritius, according to alerts from international port and shipping agency GAC.

Seafarers will be restricted from entering the Philippines for the first two weeks of 2021 from countries including the major shipping industry nations of Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the UK and US, it was announced this week.

GAC reports that in the last week most French ports have required seafarers arriving from the UK for crew changes to have a negative coronavirus test result within less than 72 hours.

Japan said it would refuse entry to visitors of any nationality from abroad starting on 28 December 2020. GAC said the regulation does not apply to seafarers signing on or off but flight cancellations, as in other countries, are likely to make crew movement more difficult and crews who have visited the UK or South Africa in the previous 14 days will not be allowed to enter.

Japan is also expected to shortly end bilateral business travel agreements with 11 mostly Asian countries as part of an extension of the country’s lockdown measures, according to local press reports. They include China, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia and Singapore, with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism currently assessing the possible impact on seafarer travel.
China changes

In China, local health authorities are testing according to different risk assessments for ships which have had crew changes over the past 14 days.

Zhuhai now requires a 14-day quarantine period after a crew change before berthing is allowed and its customs authorities will then go on board to do body temperature tests. Zhanjiang does not require 14 days quarantine, but its customs may still require Covid-19 testing.

By contrast, GAC said Shenzhen is not seeking mandatory testing even if a crew change took place less than 14 days before.

South Korea's rules will change from 15 January for all vessels making crew changes at any country. Valid negative tests will be needed for all seafarers joining ships to avoid issues with the country’s quarantine officers.

And for six countries – Bangladesh, the Philippines, Russia, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan - certification will only be valid if it is issued by South Korean government approved facilities within 72 hours before departure, GAC added.

Singapore has from this week banned entry to crew who have sailed to the UK or South Africa within the last 14 days, and those on direct or connecting flights from the two countries.

The port of Novorossiysk in Russia has stopped all crew changes or visits except for Russian crew or inspectors and is now requiring ships to provide medical declarations of health, a list of the ports of call in the last 30 days with arrival and departure dates and body temperatures for all crew at least two days before arriving.

Indonesia has prohibited entry to foreigners and suspended the disembarkation of foreign crew in the Batam area until 14 January. In Surabaya, a five-day quarantine is required for disembarked seafarers while awaiting test results and before flying back to home countries.

Mauritius has advised that any ship planning to call at Port Louis with crew having travelled to or from the UK and South Africa within the last 15 days will not be allowed to enter or transit.

And Reunion is not allowing seafarers from ships that have called in South Africa to go ashore unless they produce a negative result of a Covid-91 test carried out within 72 hours prior to disembarkation.