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COVID and crew change

The recent cases of crew arriving in Australia COVID infected on board ships arriving in Australia is of major concern. 25 of the crew on board one vessel have now all returned positive. The crew were nearly all changed over in the Philippines. The Singaporean Maritime Port Authority have introduced new crew change requirements as follows;



The Singapore Maritime Port Authority issued revised crew change requirements today in the form of PMA circular 38. BIMCO gives a short summary of these requirements.

The PMA revised its crew change requirements on 1st September together with the set-up of the Crew Facilitation Center as reported in our news piece of 1st September 2020.  After undergoing some weeks of this protocol, the PMA  has now issued another circular; PMA 38 superseding PMA 36, revising the crew change requirements to take into account of some practicality issues. For example, a crew member must now obtain a negative COVID-19 test result not more than 72 hours rather than 48 hours prior to departure flight to Singapore as requested earlier. Some guidelines are also issued on the acceptability of a positive PCR test taken of a crew member before he is allowed in as part of the crew change.

BIMCO provides a brief summary of the revised crew change requirements:

Signing-on crew requirements as follows:

  • Crew member is no longer be required to do the 14-day quarantine or do only a 7-day quarantine if the crew member comes from an originating country/region appearing in MOH's list of countries considered as low risk. Otherwise all signing-on crew are required to serve the 14-day Stay-Home -Notice (SHN) in the originating country/region. Please refer to MOH’s website ( for the latest list of low risk countries/regions.

(BIMCO hint: a quick way to check the latest list - go to MOH's FAQ section and click on 'H - Border Measures and Changes to Stay-Home-Notice requirements' and find the latest measures for inbound travellers) 

  • All crew must be certified fit-to-travel by doctor in originating country not more than 24 hours prior to departure flight and arrive in Singapore to join the ship not more than 2 days before ship's departure from Singapore. 
  • Crew must also have obtained a negative COVID-19 test result not more than 72 hours prior to the departure flight. The test must be a polymerase chain reaction (PCR type) taken at a government -approved or ISO 151189-accredited testing facility 
  •  If crew member was previously tested COVID-19 positive, that crew member must submit documentary proof of past diagnosis based on the earliest positive PCR test result. Note however that if the date of the PCR test is 21 days or fewer before date of Singapore arrival, that crew member will not be approved for crew change. Further guidelines on effects of timing of positive PCR test result taken are given below: 
  • The crew changing process to have no more than 5 persons in a group and no interactions between these groups. 

Signing-off crew requirements as follows: 

  • Certified fit-to-travel by doctor in Singapore not more than 24 hours before disembarking the ship; and 
  •  has not gone ashore in the last 14 days before disembarking and has remained well throughout the period. 
  • MPA will facilitate pre-departure COVID-19 PCR testing for sign-off crew. 

Sign-on and sign-off crew may stay at designated holding facilities for up to 72 hours. Ship owners/managers/agents must apply for crew change in Singapore, at least 14 days before the planned crew change, by filling up the online form or scan the QR Code embedded in the said circular.

BIMCO is continuously monitoring COVID-19 restrictions and its impact on the shipping industry in particular on crew changes.”


Source website; BIMCO; (accessed 19th October 2020)

The Philippines has hopes to establish itself as the “Crew Change Capital of the world” 1, but it appears that the measures are not enough or not being adhered to adequately. A more detailed guideline may be found on the following link;

Seafarers are the most vital asset for any ship owner. The health and wellbeing of the crew must be realized by ship-owners. The Covid virus has seen many seafarers stuck in limbo globally. The protocols of the Maritime Authorities must be adhered to strictly. Agencies and authorities that bend these rules must be held account for their actions.

With Singapore’s strict enforcement on crew change and potentially the banning of ships in Australia with crew change based in the Philippines, ship owners must weigh up the costs for ship delays and crew health over quick and cheaper options.

1; website splash;,to%20become%20crew%20change%20locations. (accessed 19th October 2020)

October 2020