The Cyprus Shipping Deputy Ministry (SDM) formally announces a new process to facilitate crew changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Crew changes for vessels are possible in Cyprus provided certain conditions are met. The relevant decrees issued by the Ministry of Health also permit the long-term stay in the anchorage of vessels, including cruise ships (warm lay-up).
Cyprus is actively supporting and implementing such measures, in support of recommendations from the International Maritime Organisation, European Union, International Labour Organization and International Chamber of Shipping. The process has been formalised to support safe and efficient shipping operations, in line with growing recognition for seafarers as key workers.
The main conditions under which crew changes are permitted include the following:
Isolation: People arriving in Cyprus by aeroplane have been subject to self-isolation conditions for 14 days before their arrival; and
Negative coronavirus test: People arriving in Cyprus by aeroplane have been subjected to a PCR-based coronavirus test either in the country they are in or, if not possible, in Cyprus upon their arrival.
Logistics management: The company or agent arranging the crew change is entirely responsible for arranging the transfer of all seafarers from the vessel to the airport and from the airport to the vessel, taking all the 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.
These new measures are in addition to existing deadline extensions granted by Cyprus. To support seafarers, deadlines for Certificates of Competency, Certificates of Proficiency, Medical Fitness Certificates, Seafarer’s Identification, and Sea Service Record Books have been extended under specific conditions and where safety is not compromised.
Natasa Pilides, Cyprus Shipping Deputy Minister, said: “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.”
Ranking amongst the top international fleets, Cyprus flags over 1,000 oceangoing vessels with a total gross tonnage exceeding 24 million. As the impacts of COVID-19 evolve, the Cyprus SDM will continue to take advice from governing bodies and industry organisations to ensure all formal procedures are continuously current, up to date, and fit for purpose.