23 AUG 2020
After garnering worldwide attention and promises to address the challenges COVID-19 restrictions had created for crew changes, the issues faced by seafarers in the pandemic mostly faded from public attention. InterManager, the international trade association for ship and crew managers, however, is seeking to reignite the discussion, issuing a new warning that renewed restrictions are again denying seafarers’ human rights.
InterManager’s Secretary-General Capt. Kuba Szymanski sent a letter to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on August 18 urging IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim to offer more support to the global maritime industry specifically citing Singapore’s recent efforts to further restrict crew repatriations.
The letter acknowledges the resurgence of the virus specifically pointing out that several major seaports throughout Asia have tightened crew change restrictions and stepped up screening of seafarers in recent weeks. In July, ports such as Hong Kong and Singapore each announced a tightening of the restrictions they previously reduced to aid with crew changes. Hong Kong for example limited crew changes to vessels importing and exporting cargo from the territory and restored strict testing requirements for crew flying into its airport.
According to InterManager, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore recently issued a correspondence stating that “the MPA will be giving priority to crew change applications from Singapore-registered ships and applications for sign-off crew only, without signing-on new crew.”
InterManager is seeking to call attention to Singapore’s efforts asking the IMO to get involved to protect seafarers’ rights. “We completely understand the concerns that Singapore has, and we support their efforts to look after their citizens. However, no ships means no supplies, so a collaboration between the shipping sector and local administration is of paramount importance, and needs to be a two-way street,” they wrote to the IMO.
The ship managers’ said that the restrictions imposed on non-Singapore-registered vessels creates a myriad of issues to the safety of seafarers and is asking the IMO to act before other nations adopt similar policies.
“If the same rules issued by the MPA of Singapore were applied to all Flag States, it would pose a very dangerous narrative, as ships of other Flag States would not be allowed to perform crew changes anywhere in the world,” wrote InterManager. “We – ship managers – would be unable to change off-signing crew because they would immediately be in breach of safe manning regulations.”
InterManager is also encouraging anyone who did manage to carry out crew changes in Singapore to get in touch so that it can keep a record of the scale of the problem. According to its current records, they know of no crew being permitted to sign on or off non-Singapore ships.