Under the suggested scheme, specially chartered flights will fly seafarers that have completed COVID-19 tests and quarantine in their homeland to Hong Kong. They will travel to a cruise ship at anchor on a launch boat, directly from the plane. Once onboard the cruise ship they will wait and rest thereafter carrying out immigration clearance and COVID-19 tests until they are transferred to the ship they are signing on. The same process will be followed in reverse for the crew leaving a vessel.
Jonathan Jones, director and project coordinator of Crew Assist explained, “Seafarers who sign off a ship in Hong Kong must go straight and board the airplane. But very often flights are canceled and the crew is stuck on board the ship. This proposal can solve that issue.”
After the COVID-19 outbreak, a not for profit task force named Crew Assist was set up by shipping executives like the managing director at Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR) Gerry Buchanan, in Hong Kong.
To increase the business of the airlines and cruise operators who suffered in the pandemic, the suggested arrangement would work wonders.
According to Jones, the reply came on 3 November through the private secretary of Chief Executive Lam that the proposal had been relayed and is pending follow-up at the Transport and Housing Bureau.
In compliance with the procedure, to ensure discipline, a financial penalty should also be attached, suggests the shipping industry.
Due to a spike in the COVID-19 cases, Hong Kong had previously relaxed restrictions on crew change that had been tightened in late July to only allow ships with cargo operations in the port to conduct crew changes. Hong Kong had relaxed these restrictions in mid-June as a response to the union’s request but have decided otherwise after seeing negative results.
After the expiration of their contracts due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, The global crew change crisis continues to abandon over 300,000 seafarers stranded on their vessels.