MPA Upgrades Safety Measures As Crew Changes Lead To New COVID-19 Cases

The Maritime Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has unveiled a new series of safety measures, including ‘safe corridors’, designed to ensure coronavirus is kept under control as the Port of Singapore allows crew changes.

In a statement, the MPA said it has reevaluated its safety procedures due to the “heightened risk” of importing COVID-19, as a result of allowing crew changes.

It says it is currently facilitating 300 crew changes a day through what it calls its “safe corridor” procedure. The MPA urged the entire shipping industry to play its part in carrying out crew changes.

Additionally, it said it 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.

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

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.

The issue of crew changes has been one of the biggest challenges the maritime industry has faced in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As countries implemented travel restrictions, thousands of seafarers were left unable to leave vessels and had to remain at sea far beyond their legal contract.