March 31 ------ Although the Port of Singapore suspended crew changes as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19, the port has now softened the ban. With a recent heightened risk of imported cases, Singapore introduced a slate of measures on short term visitors entering or transiting in Singapore, including the suspension of crew changes. “We have worked closely with international organizations, shipping associations and unions over the years to address the needs and welfare of both local and foreign seafarers. We also hear the feedback from our unions and the industry,” the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said. “We understand that there would be special circumstances where crew will need to disembark or embark the ship,” the port authority added.
Such circumstances include the expiration of the employment contract with no possibility of extension; compassionate grounds e.g. death of a family member; or that the crew is no longer medically fit to work on board a ship. Under such special circumstances, cargo ships may submit their requests to MPA for consideration, MPA added. Since the onset of the coronavirus, the port has adopted many precautionary measures including thermal screening, disinfection of vessels and safe distancing. Moreover, to protect seafarers, the MPA has put in place procedures to quarantine ships and treat suspected and confirmed cases.
The Port of Singapore said it remains open for cargo operations and marine services, including bunkering, ship supplies and shipyard repairs, in order to maintain commerce by sea and not disrupt global supply chains. Causing disruptions to maritime trade, a number of ports around the world prohibited vessel crew changes as precautionary measures concerning coronavirus developments. The measures have been enforced despite the fact that in any given month around 100,000 seafarers reach the end of their employment contracts and need to be repatriated.