Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)



Coronavirus virus originating in Wuhan China and possible worldwide pandemic (illustration)
Credit to: OSORIOartist /

On 11 March 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic and this announcement followed the declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by the WHO on 30 January 2020.

Below is a short overview of some of the measures which countries have implemented to reduce the exposure and transmission of COVID-19 and its variants to their citizens, and which may have an impact on shipping.

The current situation in China

Mainland China

China recently eased up on its COVID-19 restrictions regulating crew changes in Chinese ports to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus mutations, especially the Omicron variant.

Our local correspondents informed us that not only the restrictive measures regulating crew changes and disembarkation of crew in Chinese ports are easing up. Also, it is expected that local surveyors are soon able to attend on board foreign vessels the same way, as before the pandemic.

The latest update, which gives a good overview of the current situation in China was received from our local correspondents Messrs. Huatai Marine.

Huatai Marine Circular no. PNI [2023]01 (dd.19 January 2023)

We also recommend reading the latest circular we received from local correspondents Messrs. Shanghai P&I as it includes a list detailing the current situation in each port advising whether crew change and/or the attendance of local surveyors on board are permitted by local authorities.

Shanghai P&I Circular no. SPI230101 (dd. 13 January 2023)

In addition, we enclose the Circular no. 2206 received on 9 January 2023 from Messrs. Oasis, also giving an update about the latest easement of COVID-19 restrictions in China.

Oasis Circular 2301: China relieves COVID-19 control

Hong Kong

Following the spreading of COVID-19 cases in China, Hong Kong has issued new boarding requirements for inbound passengers from mainland China, Macao and Taiwan, but also for persons arriving from overseas.

We also recommend to members to read the information posted on the following websites:

* HKIA – Hong Kong International Airport – all COVID-19 updates

* HKIA - Points to Note for Quarantine for Inbound Travellers 

The current situation outside China

United States of America

Whilst the USA allow global travel, Members are encouraged to check the requirements put into place by the US Center of Disease Control (CDC).

The CDC just recently implemented a requirement for a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery for air passengers boarding flights to the United States originating from the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

The previous general mandate to wear masks while boarding, disembarking, and for the duration of travel on commercial ships that were bound for the US and that traded in waters under US jurisdiction was lifted by the CDC in April 2022.

The relevant bulletin of the US Coast Guards is the following:

* USCG Marine Safety Information Bulletin 02-21 CH-5

However, we recommend to Members that have vessel calling US ports to check the website of the USCG for updates at least 72 hours before calling a US port.

The USA allow crew change, but there are entry requirements in place for crew arriving to the USA by airplane. Proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with a vaccine approved by the CDC, is a mandatory entry requirement for non-US citizens or non-immigrant passengers travelling to the United States from a foreign country by air.

* Pre-departure testing requirements for air travellers to the US was lifted effective 12 June 2022.

* USCG Marine Safety Information Bulletin 04-21 - COVID-19 Crew Change Issues

* US Department of State - New Requirements for Air Travelers to the US

* CDC - Requirement for Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination for Air Passengers

Members may also find the following two website articles of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be useful:

* CDC Interim Guidance for Ships on Managing Suspected or Confirmed Cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

* CDC COVID-19 and Cruise Ship Travel


On 4 January 2023, EU countries agreed on a coordinated precautionary approach in response to the latest COVID-19 developments in China, taking into account the need for sufficient, reliable data and China's easing of travel restrictions as of 8 January 2023. More information can be found in the statement on the coordination of COVID-19 travel measures (Swedish presidency).

The following webpages may contain :

* COVID-19: travel into the EU

* Re-open EU

* EU Members States travel advice

The following websites may also be of interest to our members:

EMSA COVID-19 Measures

* European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

* COVID-19: EU Guidance for Cruise Ship Operations

* EU Guidelines on protection of health, repatriation and travel arrangements for seafarers, passengers and other persons on board ships

South Africa

The South African Government repealed on 22 June 2022, several COVID-19 regulations relating to the wearing of face masks, gatherings and persons entering the country.

For more information we refer our members to the webpage of the South African Government:

* Travel – Coronavirus COVID-19

Further information can be found on the following websites:

* South Africa Maritime Safety Authority – Vaccination of foreign seafarers in South African Ports

* South African Maritime Safety Authority - COVID-19 Level 1: Seafarer Crew Changes


The Maritime and Port Authority Singapore (MPA) announced on 29 June 2022 that with effect 1 July 2022, a revision of the requirements for the submission of Maritime Declaration of Health (MDH) for vessels arriving in the Port of Singapore. Details of the requirements which are still valid, are listed in the Port Marine Circular no. 15 of 2022 as linked below.

* MPA PC22-15

* Singapore Crew Change Guidebook


Since 5 January 2023, travellers entering Australia from China, including Hong Kong and Macau, are required to undertake a COVID-19 test within a 48-hour period prior to the day of their scheduled departure and show evidence of a negative test.

This applies to travellers entering Australia by air from China, including Hong Kong and Macau, either on a direct flight, or on a flight that has a stopover in another country before landing in Australia.

Evidence of a negative COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) or any type of Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT), which includes Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests taken within a 48-hour period prior to the day of scheduled departure will be accepted.

More information, especially for travellers arriving from other countries, can be found on the following webpages of the Australian Government:

Entering and leaving Australia

* Australian Government

* Australian Government – Department of Health and Aged Care

New Zealand

New Zealand opened its international border for eligible travellers. For more details we would like to refer our members to the websites of the New Zealand Government as linked below:

* Reopening the New Zealand border

* New Zealand Immigration

Ports worldwide

We encourage our members to always double-check the current local of any planned port of call worldwide situation with the local agents well in advance.

* BIMCO is opening the port information section on its website with the aim to assist the industry

* IATA: Air Travel Centre – List of countries imposing entry restrictions

Current situation for vessels' crews

Whilst regular crew change can still be a challenging task for shipowners, and same is the reason that several of our members are encouraging their crews to serve on board longer than their contractually agreed period, we see that most countries are now allowing the movement of crew through their ports and airports as many countries have dropped their COVID-19 restrictions.

If, however, the seafarer agrees to extend their time on board under the crewing contract, it is the responsibility of the members to seek the necessary confirmation and approval of relevant authorities together with the extension of the validity of certificates, or if an extension cannot be obtained, the approval of an exception by the relevant authorities.

As for the Extended PEME programme, Skuld accepts that seafarers stay onboard beyond 12 months and as for maintaining the validity of their certificates in excess of the statutory required certificate they have, and which usually is valid for 24 months, the member is advised to contact the relevant authority. Should it be impossible obtain an extension whilst it is impossible to effect a crew change, then the crew cover will remain to be intact.

The guidance "COVID-19: Interface between ship and shore-based personnel" aims to address major concerns and expectations of ship's crews and shore-based personnel through the implementation of practical, risk-based measures.

In order to help the seafarers to cope better with the prolonged stay on board, the focus on the wellbeing of crew should be increased. The Club recommends turning to the very helpful information and support provided by International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) on mental health and how to deal with the pandemic.

* ISWAN: The Seafarers' Health Information Programme

To avoid the spread of COVID-19 on board, members are encouraged to establish management plans together with their company doctors on how to handle the situation on board their vessels.

The Club also wants to encourage members to have Skuld's COVID-19 safety awareness poster being displayed on entered vessels.

Further guidance about necessary hygienic standards as well as needed medical supplies can be found in the following documents and websites:

* ICS: Practical information on COVID-19 vaccinations for seafarers

* ICS: Handling a Mental Health Crisis or Emergency and Spotting Suicidal Behaviour in Seafarers

* IMO: Focus on Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

* WHO: Operational considerations for managing COVID-19 cases and outbreaks on board ships

As the situation remains to be very fluid due to virus variants developing, members are recommended to stay in close contact with local agents about any requirements imposed by local authorities, as those can change quickly.

Chartering issues

Skuld has published "COVID-19: Charterparty matters for shipowners". This article first explores owners' rights to refuse to call at a port which is affected by the virus, before examining the rights, obligations and liabilities of owners under charterparties in the context of delays at loading and discharging ports.

* Intertanko's publication "Guidance on Chartering Issues relating to COVID-19" is being shared here for Skuld members' benefit.

Skuld maintains its advice to members to get in touch with their claims handlers who can provide them with information tailored to their trade. Skuld also recommends to its members to get in touch with their claims handlers for any questions or concerns which might arise regarding charterparties.

General comments

In addition, we recommend members to turn to the following webpages for additional information:

* WHO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

* WHO: Daily situation reports (listing all countries with confirmed cases)

* US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

* John Hopkins University: COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) Dashboard