By EMMIE V. ABADILLA
The Department of Transportation (DOTr), through the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), yesterday announced special assistance and travel exemptions for ship crew changes and repatriation of seafarers during the coronavirus crisis.
Marina abides by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) request for governments to keep shipping and supply chains open and grant special travel exemptions to seafarers in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Marina guidelines cover foreign-registered and Philippine-registered vessels docked in international ports or seaports under the jurisdiction of the Philippines.
Professional seafarers and marine personnel should be exempted from national travel or movement restrictions to allow them to join or leave ships, according to the IMO.
Governments should permit professional seafarers and marine personnel to disembark from ships in port and transit through their territory (such as to an airport) to allow crews to be changed and seafarers to be repatriated.
Already, the Marina classified seafarers as “key workers,” alongside other essential workers during the pandemic.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) also directed all government agencies to fast-track the processing of seafarers’ employment documents.
Filipino seafarers should be protected and assisted as they embark and disembark from their vessels during ship crew changes, stressed DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade.
“We need to set all the procedures in place to guarantee the safety of our Filipino mariners especially during crucial moments as ship crew changes where they are vulnerable to the coronavirus,” he noted.
“During this health crisis, ships transported cargoes of basic commodities such as grain, coal, oil and most importantly, medical supplies,” Marina Administrator VADM Robert Empedrad acknowledged.
“Around 100,000 such ships carry almost 95% of the world trade. These ships are operated by close to 1.5 million seafarers, of which 378,000 are Filipinos.”
Marina’s procedures on crew changes and on the repatriation of seafarers comply with the protocols of the Department of Health (DOH), the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ), and the DOTr.