Covid-19 sets seafarers as collateral damage

Covid-19 sets seafarers as collateral damage

COUNTRIES DEMAND proof of negative Covid-19 tests, placing seafarers as collateral damage, despite them being granted special travel exemptions. Airlines demand proof of negative Covid-19 tests, causing crew change through Singapore in disarray last week. 

Covid-19 sets seafarers as collateral damage | Captain in control
Ship captain sets off to another port. Photo by Ibrahim Boran

Seafarers are collateral damage despite their special travel exemptions. Several countries demand proof of negative Covid tests before travelers arrive at their borders. The emergence of mutant strains in the United Kingdom (UK), South Africa, and Brazil caused global distress that countries put into place immediate travel restrictions, which further deepened the crisis in crew change. 

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Negative Covid tests required

Some countries require PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests up to 72 hours prior to arrival. The Netherlands require a rapid test taken immediately before departure. 

Fines are thrown at airlines for every passenger admitted onboard without proof of a negative test. Others oblige PCR tests that provide results up to 48 hours.

Seafarers from the UK were not allowed crew change in Singapore. They reported having difficulty with access to PCR tests in Singapore unless employers are willing to cover the cost. With Singapore as their only crew change port, they are stuck on board for a further four months until they are back in early April. Another seafarer reported canceling off-singing in Singapore for the difficulty in accessing a PCR test for the crew, while another reported their employer had canceled all crew changes through Singapore.

‘Fit to Fly’ is now unfit

KLM, British Airways, Qatar Airways, and Turkish Airlines are all reported to be demanding negative PCR tests. Fit to Fly medical certificates issued by a doctor and previously valid for all nationalities to take flights home are being rejected by Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines.

The Netherlands has exempted seafarers from pre-arrival rapid tests, but still require PCR tests. Dutch exemptions do not include seafarers on commercial yachts and pleasure craft.

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