Paul Andrew, Senior Loss Prevention Officer at West of England Club, has reported that the European Commission had issued guidelines aimed at helping to repatriate seafarers caught on ships amid the Covid-19 crisis.
EU Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean has said that the guidelines adopted on April 8th included sanitary advice, recommendations for crew changes, disembarking, and repatriation for seafarers and passengers. “I am asking the Member States to designate ports where fast-track crew changes take place and recall that cruise operators have a responsibility to their customers and employees to bring everyone safely home”, Vălean said.
For non-EU nationals who need visas to disembark within the EU and who could not apply for them due to the current situation, member states have been advised to grant these at the border so that the non-EU nationals can be repatriated promptly.
The EC further said that cruise operators should take overall responsibility for arranging the repatriation of passengers and crews from their cruise ships, including from non-EU ports.
“The commission calls on flag states to help the operators identify the appropriate ports for disembarkation and support them in arranging disembarkation and repatriation of their customers and crew. If individuals on board are known to be infected with the coronavirus, the vessels should be directed to a port in close proximity where hospitals have sufficient capacity”, the EC said.
Ships have already been mandated to provide a declaration of health of all crew members on board before entering a port and many port authorities have also introduced quarantines for ships coming from high risk areas.
However, in light of reports that seafarers lacked necessary protective equipment in order to be able to safely perform their duties, the Commission has urged stakeholders to provide their crews with personal protective equipment and for seafarers to have access to adequate medical care if in need.
In line with the guidelines, in cases where all members of a crew are healthy and if their previous port call took place more than 14 days ago, they should not be quarantined when repatriated.