MPA enhances safety measures in Port of Singapore during crew change to prevent COVID-19 spread
On crew change, Singapore is facilitating an average of about 300 cases of crew change per day in July. These crew changes are facilitated through the ‘safe corridor’ procedures as detailed in the Singapore Crew Change Guidebook. This Guidebook was developed by an industry taskforce led by the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA), in partnership with the Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union and supported by MPA.
Singapore has seen three cases within one week, where crew members scheduled to sign-on to ocean-going cargo ships were found to be COVID-19 positive upon arrival. This has prevented the shipping companies concerned from conducting successful crew changes. Resources were also put in to isolate and minimise the probability of any spread of the virus to others including fellow crew members.
MPA is working with the industry taskforce to provide more detailed guidelines on the ‘safe-corridor’ procedures to safeguard the crew change process including the need to self-isolate while serving the 14-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN), to ensure accurate COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, and direct transfers from airport to ship for the crew while in Singapore to minimise contact.
MPA would like to urge the industry – ship owners, managers and agents – to play its part to carry out safe crew changes. As there have been some instances of procedural breaches leading up to performing crew changes in Singapore, MPA has recently reminded ship owners, managers and agents to adhere strictly to the ‘safe-corridor’ procedures including ensuring accurate COVID-19 tests and compliance to self-isolation while serving SHN.
MPA has also previously informed the industry that any ship owner, manager or agent whose crew member is found to be COVID-19 positive whilst in Singapore for crew change will be suspended from performing any further crew changes for a stipulated period. This will allow the company sufficient time to review its internal processes to ensure strict adherence to MPA’s ‘safe-corridor’ crew change procedures.
Given the increasing number of crew change applications, MPA will also need to prioritise new crew change applications. These will include crew with expiry of contracts which flag States are not extending further, Singapore-registered ships, and crew sign-offs. Please refer to Port Marine Circular 31 of 2020 at Annex 1 for more details.
As an added precaution in the Port of Singapore, all shore personnel in contact with ship crew are advised to don face shields or goggles in addition to face masks and gloves when working on the ships. For ships which have conducted crew change in the past 14 days, shore personnel are advised to ensure that there is no contact with the ship crew. For more details, please refer to Port Marine Circular 32 of 2020 at Annex 2.
MPA has separately provided guidance to all Singapore-registered ships on the best practices that they can adopt. For example, if any crew on board is tested for COVID-19 while the ship is in port, the ship should wait for the test results and take necessary measures before departing the port. Please refer to Shipping Circular 14 of 2020 on best practices for conducting crew change at Annex 3.
MPA says it will continue to work with the industry to review our current policy to adapt to the fast-changing situation relating to COVID-19.