Shipping groups plan to test and quarantine seafarers in Manila

In a response to recent cases of Covid-19 among crew from the Philippines, shipping trade groups are to use the Manila Marriott and St Giles hotels from October 28th as “virus testing hotels”, part of a scheme set up by the International Maritime Employers’ Council and International Transport Workers’ Federation. A third-party security company will monitor the quarantined crew.

IMEC has booked 200 single rooms at the St Giles and 100 rooms at the Marriott, with rooms offered on a first-come-first-serve basis. Seafarers will be tested in their rooms on arrival and departure, with results within 24 hours. IMEC said that the facilities were in the process of being ‘white-listed’ by the Singaporean authorities.

IMEC is planning more crew change centres in India and Ukraine once the Manila centre is up and running.

The plans were drawn up after “concerns raised by a number of crew change hubs in recent weeks over the authenticity of Covid negative tests obtained in the Philippines and over the efficacy of pre-embarkation quarantine served by joiners before being deployed.”

Western Australia’s state government noted several sets of recorded Covid-19 positive tests this year on ships arriving at its ports. About half of the 52 crew of the livestock carrier Al Messilah (IMO 7924425) tested positive at Fremantle last week.

Shipping groups feared disruption to trade when the Australian state said that it would consider turning back infected ships to prevent outbreaks spreading.

Although most of the Al Messilah’s crew were Filipino, that nation supplies a significant proportion of crew in the Far East, and many of those crew do not embark or disembark in the Philippines. it was not yet known where or when the Al Messilah last changed crews. In August Singapore’s Maritime and Ports Authority reported an outbreak among 15 Filipino crew on a ship arriving from India.

Although the IMEC/ITF plan will use grant funding to pay for the Manila hub, Members must pay for hotel rooms at about $40-$70 per day, as well as the cost of testing and Covid-19 protocol-compliant transport to and from the hotels.

IMEC’s CEO Francesco Gargiulo said that ships had been using Manila more than normal because China and Australia had not allowed them.

He also said that Australia should “look inwards” and consider more open borders to help the situation. “The fact you cannot get people into Australia is the reason ships are going to Manila. Manila did not exist as a crewing hub. It has become a crewing hub because of all the restrictions”, Gargiulo said.

InterManager secretary-general Kuba Szymanski said that some shipowners would be unwilling to pay for two-week hotel stays for seafarers, claiming that the industry should not be made to bear the burden of protecting seafarers only for countries like Australia to refuse them entry.

1980-built, Kuwait-flagged, 38,988 gt Al Messilah is owned and managed by Livestock Transport of Safat, Kuwait. It is entered with Steamship Mutual (Eastern Syndicate) on behalf of Livestock Transport & Trading Co KSC.