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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
Members may also find the following two website articles of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be useful:
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 :
The following websites may also be of interest to our members:
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:
Further information can be found on the following websites:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
In addition, we recommend members to turn to the following webpages for additional information: