MANILA – The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), with guidance from the Department of Transportation (DOTr), has issued the detailed procedures and health and safety protocols for the repatriation and the conduct of crew change, in authorized domestic and international ports in the country.

The protocols cover the standards and procedures for the following situations:

– Filipino Seafarers Joining a Ship Docked in the Philippines or Overseas (Outbound)
– Filipino Seafarers Leaving a Ship (Inbound)
– Special Procedures for Filipino Seafarers Leaving a Cruise Ship Docked in Philippine Seaports
– Filipino Seafarers Transiting in the Philippines (Airport/Terminal to Airport/Terminal)
– Foreign Seafarers Joining a Ship Docked in the Philippine Seaport from the Airport (Airport to Ship)
– Foreign Seafarers Leaving a Ship Docked in Philippine Seaport to an Airport (Ship to Airport)
– Foreign Seafarers Transiting in the Philippines (Airport/Terminal to Airport/Terminal)

This is consistent with the issuance of Joint Circular No. 01 Series of 2020 dated 2 July 2020, with the subject “Guidelines for the Establishment of the Philippine Green Lane to Facilitate the Speedy and Safe Travel of Seafarers, Including their Safe and Swift Disembarkation, and Crew Change During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

This Joint Circular was issued by the DFA, DOTr, DOH, DOJ, DOLE and the DILG which consolidates all the protocols issued by concerned government agencies relating to crew change and repatriation of seafarers.

According to VADM Robert A. Empedrad, AFP (RET), Administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority, “the revised protocol has ensured that the procedures on crew change and the repatriation of seafarers are done in compliance with the existing safety and health protocols issued by concerned government agencies for effective crew change as well as the IMO protocol.”

Moreover, the protocol on crew change and the repatriation of seafarers follows recommended procedures by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as contained in its Circular Letter No.4204/Add.14 dated 5 May 2020, with the subject “Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”

This, however, does not mean that shipping companies will be allowed to implement crew change in any port. The crew change hub locations will only be allowed to undertake crew change activities upon evaluation and approval by the DOTr that the location is ready and will be capable of complying with all protocols, including undertaking RT-PCR swab testing at the port of disembarkation.

By virtue of IATF Resolution No. 53, the DOTr has been tasked by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to evaluate ports that may be authorized as hubs for crew change.

Currently, only the Port of Manila is allowed as a crew change hub, and shortly, Port Capinpin in Orion, Bataan. Other crew change hub locations are being considered such as Subic, Batangas and Davao.

As a final word, Administrator Empedrad said that, “The MARINA expresses its utmost support to the DOTr in its effort to make the Philippines as an international crew change hub. As a major provider of Filipino seafarers to the global labor market, we should spearhead the support to all seafarers who have been recognized as key workers.”