With the plight of thousands of seafarers being stranded on their ships well past the expiry of their contract finally getting global publicity, Cyprus has said that crew changes in its country will be possible during the Covid-19 pandemic, providing certain conditions are met.
Decrees issued by the Ministry of Health permit the long-term stay in anchorage of vessels, including cruise ships (warm lay-up).
Cyprus Shipping Deputy Minister Natasa Pilides said that Cyprus was actively supporting and implementing measures in support of recommendations from the IMO, the EU, the ILO and the ICS.
She said that the process had been formalized to support safe and efficient shipping operations, in line with a growing recognition that seafarers were key workers in the global economy.
The crew change process will include self- isolation for 14 days beforehand for people arriving in Cyprus by plane, and coronavirus testing either in their country or, if not possible, on arrival in Cyprus.
The company or agent arranging the crew change will be entirely responsible for arranging the transfer of all seafarers from the vessel to the airport and from the airport to the vessel, taking all necessary precautions.
If the times of arrival of the ship and the aeroplane do not coincide, or if the PCR-based test results are still pending, the company or agent will need to make arrangements in coordination with governmental authorities for the crew to remain in isolation at a designated address until the time of their departure. Where possible, seafarers should stay onboard the vessel during this period, the Cyprus Health Ministry said.
In order to support seafarers Cyprus had already extended deadlines for Certificates of Competency, Certificates of Proficiency, Medical Fitness Certificates, Seafarer’s Identification, and Sea Service Record Books, under specific conditions and where safety was not compromised.
Pilides said that “seafarers are suffering under the current circumstances, impacted by extended contracts and unable to return home due to closed borders and cancelled flights. As an industry, we have a duty to support our seafarers, while always maintaining the safety of the vessels they work on.
“In coordination with the Cyprus Shipping Deputy Ministry and the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Health has introduced a formal process to ensure continuity of trade and the well-being of our key workers. We remain committed to facilitating a smooth process when assisting individuals in getting back to their loved ones, which is so important at this difficult time. We will continue to adapt processes and procedures as necessary, ensuring we are doing all we can to support safe, efficient and compassionate shipping operations.”