Shaking A Hornet’s Nest: CREW CHANGE GETS MIXED REACTIONS
Sam Chambers wrote as early as July that Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia rein in crew change freedoms, with calls growing for a crackdown on Filipino manning agencies.
As part of restrictions, only Singapore-flagged ships can now change crews therein coupled with very tricky logistically and financially demands.
Singaporean authorities claim they had discovered a number of Filipinos had been flouting quarantine regulations, some even carrying tampered coronavirus tests (allegedly available in Manla for $2).
Carl Martin Faannessen, a crewing specialist based in Manila, has called for the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to step in.
“The manning agencies involved should be identified and lose their license immediately, with no right of appeal. Trust in local regulatory bodies will vaporize unless stern action is taken.”
Among supporters of Faannessen’s view is Carl Schou, the president of Wilhelmsen Ship Management.
Hong Kong now bans all crew changes for ships without scheduled cargo operations there. This southern Chinese city had been one of Asia’s most open ports for crew changes. Gripped by a third wave of the pandemic, new regulations were implemented to try and halt the spread of the virus.
Malaysia has also decided to toughen up its stance on crew changes by imposing 14-day quarantine for foreigners arriving at Kuala Lumpur airport.
Elsewhere, due to the deteriorating Covid-19 situation in Oman and a spike in daily confirmed cases, all crew changes have been halted.
A Manila-based agency was offered PhP100k per head by unnamed shipowner if they could release COVID-19 test results early in the morning. Ship demurrage will be costlier for the principal; but she politely declined even if commensurate with the principal.
Matthew O´Crowley suggests to stop using the term 'agency' for these crooks, just call them what they are-human traffickers. Faannessen disagrees as “There are many agents who do excellent work in ensuring continued employment and development of seafarers in the Philippines”.
Joost Mes was circumspect: there’s no proof the Agency nor the seafarers tampered the COVID certificates. He believes, “The only way to avoid this tempering is to arrange testing direct with clinic and let the result be send direct to the agency iso via the seafarer. Some agencies are booking tests at private clinics (as results are faster) but those clinics procedures are such that they email the result only to the patient (Seafarer).”
Cedric Caguioa of HSSE and Operations SI at Maersk Tankers agrees, “Weed out these unscrupulous operators who tarnish the good name of others.”
Marc Van Mael suggests the use of higher technology: Monitor the crew's actual health with Care4C wearable technology and analysis. Combined with other medical measured data, it will give a correct update of the crew’s health status while at sea.
The crew will have at all times an up-to-date "virtual seamen’s book" with correct verified health data upstreamed from the wearable to the cloud. These data can be verified by a local doctor or the vessels flagstate medical centre to give a "safe to travel" clearance.