News Bulletin – 27 June 2020

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1. India : Maritime bodies transport 734 seamen through chartered flights on ”Day of the Seafarer”.

26 June 2020 : To mark the ”Day of the Seafarer”, leading maritime bodies on Thursday said they are transporting 734 Indian seafarers through chartered flights from Mumbai and New Delhi to Doha and back on Thursday. The bodies MASSA and FOSMA have already announced that they have joined hands to transport about 4,000 Indian seafarers till June 30 in chartered flights as a non-profit mission to enable crew change across the globe.

On June 25 on the ‘Day of the Seafarer’, the Maritime Association of Shipowners Shipmanagers and Agents (MASSA) and The Foreign Ship-owners Representatives and Ship Managers Association (FOSMA) said they will transport 734 Indian seafarers through chartered flights from Mumbai and New Delhi to Doha (Qatar) and back on Thursday.

MASSA CEO Capt Shiv Halbe told PTI: “We believe this is the largest movement of seafarers serving on cargo ships in a single day and it is indeed an historic occasion for Indian ship manning sector.” Halbe said a total 424 Indian seafarers will board two outgoing flights each from Mumbai and New Delhi to Doha to enable them to join cargo ships across the globe. The return flights to India will transport 310 Indian seafarers.

“Also, 100 Indian citizens will travel in these flights to Mumbai and New Delhi free of cost from Doha as per the list of passengers submitted to us by the Embassy of India in Doha. It will be our CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiative on ‘Day of the Seafarer’. We will not charge any money to transport these stranded Indian passengers back home,” added Halbe.

2. Philippines : Over 16,000 Filipino, foreign seafarers cleared at Manila port.

26 June 2020 : Over 16,000 Filipino and foreign seafarers on cruise ships anchored in in Manila Bay have been cleared to disembark by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) since the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic broke out. In a statement on Friday, the BI said a total of 16,287 seafarers were cleared by the agency – 11,189 Filipinos and 5,098 foreigners.

BI Seaport Operations chief Alnazib Decampong said the seafarers disembarked from 42 vessels between April 16 to June 15 after undergoing mandatory quarantine procedures and COVID-19 tests. In a statement on Friday, the BI said a total of 16,287 seafarers were cleared by the agency –11,189 Filipinos and 5,098 foreigners.

BI Seaport Operations chief Alnazib Decampong said the seafarers disembarked from 42 vessels between April 16 to June 15 after undergoing mandatory quarantine procedures and COVID-19 tests. Filipino seafarers received transportation assistance from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. BI Boarding Supervisor Abinal Usman said that foreign seafarers were only allowed to disembark upon presentation of a confirmed outbound airline ticket.

3. India : 168 seamen sign off at Mumbai, land in Goa .

25 June 2020 : As many as 168 Goan seafarers from the cruise liner Carnival Ecstasy signed off at the Mumbai port on Wednesday afternoon and landed at the Goa International Airport, Dabolim, by a chartered flight the same night. The cruise liner had arrived at the Mumbai port on June 21 but had to remain anchored for three days as two other ships from the same company were in the process of disembarking Indian seafarers. As they had tested negative for Covid-19 at the Mumbai port, all 168 seafarers were instructed to home quarantine upon their arrival in Goa.

Carnival Ecstasy, which departed from Jacksonville, US, on May 3, had dropped anchor at Bahamas on May 7 to pick up transit seafarers from other ships. She arrived Durban, South Africa, on June 5 for bunkering and stocking up on provisions before departing for Mumbai.

4. Mission to Seafarers continues virtual challenge to raise funds for seafarers.

25 June 2020 : The Mission to Seafarers is continuing its virtual challenge campaign called Global Champions Unite to support seafarers during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a significant percentage of seafarers’ welfare facilities are still unable to open, the Mission to Seafarers is using digital services to provide emotional and counselling support to seafarers during this time. The campaign, which was first launched in April, is continuing to raise funds to support its new on-line chaplaincy welfare service and further responses to the COVID-19 crisis.

The international campaign gives participants 90 days to reach their challenge goal and raise their target. So far, the Mission to Seafarers has raised £51k, with a goal of £60k in sight. The Mission has praised the efforts of individuals in the maritime industry who have taken on a challenge themselves whilst in lockdown. Guy Platten, ICS secretary general, and companies like Ardmore Shipping, North, and Fratelli Cosulich Bunkers are a few named by the Misson to Seafarers.  

All the funds raised will contribute towards the Flying Angel campaign, created in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The campaign includes the new Digital Chaplaincy, a Seafarers’ Happiness Index App, Mifi Units for onboard communications, PPE global provision, advocacy provision, and more.

5. Seafarers are key workers — NIMASA.

24 June 2020 : GRACE Hopper once said, “A ship in port is safe but that is not what ships are built for.” It means a ship must constantly navigate through the sea to meet the purpose she was built for. The ship is built to move a large amount of goods across the globe, and findings have emerged that without shipping the world would not have been as connected as it is currently.

The most important thought that comes to mind when the keel for a ship is about to be laid is the crew that would man the ship. This is because the crew are the ones who would ensure the ship sails through all kinds of weather. In fact, they weather the storms together and it is through their expertise that the ship manoeuvres through everything it experiences. Sadly, these seafarers sometimes lose their lives in a bid to make the world more enjoyable.

Though people in maritime know that the most important asset in shipping is the human element, the world never really felt how important this set of professionals were until the outbreak of COVID-19 across the globe. The world was not prepared for the outbreak of the pandemic, so many countries decided to shut all businesses. Flights were grounded and a lot of industries were seen as not essential. But the shipping chain remained, albeit with a lot of regulations, to contribute its own quota to efforts to mitigate the spread of the pandemic.

6. India : DG Shipping extends validity of seafarers’ certificates till December 2021.

24 June 2020 : The Directorate General of Shipping (DG Shipping) has extended the validity of seafarers’ certificates that are expiring on or before December 31 till December 31, 2021, providing relief to crew facing difficulties in re-validating their documents due to the coronavirus-induced restrictions.

The inability to re-validate the certificates would have hindered the chances of seafarers getting employment on ships. The pandemic, according to the Directorate General of Shipping, has severely impacted ship-to-shore interactions, including crew changes and in maintaining the validity of the certificates of seafarers.

The actions taken worldwide and within India, as a result of the outbreak, pose a serious challenge to the Directorate to allow the continued training of seafarers, revalidate certificates, including medical certificates and issuance of endorsement attesting recognition of certificates in accordance with International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for seafarers (STCW Convention).

7. India : Seafarers demand welfare steps like gratuity, preferential travel in plea to PM.

23 June 2020 : National seafarers body NUSI on Monday sought some welfare measures, including provision for gratuity, expediting the process for contributory annuity and priority in modes of travel, for the seamen community, saying it is also ‘the second line of defence’ in times of calamities and wars.

In a petition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, ahead of the ‘International Day of Seafarers’, the National Union of Seafarers (NUSI) said that the Union was putting forward these proposals on behalf of its members and urged the government to consider them. Every year, June 25 is celebrated as the ‘International Day of Seafarers’, globally.

‘India is facing unprecedented challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic. We are aware that the government under your astute leadership, is taking all necessary steps to counter the pandemic, which has locked down the lands and the skies of the entire world.  Everything is at a standstill.

‘But the seas are busy with thousands of ships plying across the oceans loaded with cargo to keep our world moving. All this is possible only because of the hard work of the brave seafarers, the fearless working men and women on cargo ships and cruise ships,’ Abdulgani Y Serang, General Secretary-cum-Treasurer, NUSI said in its petition.

8. Philippines : Repatriation rights of seafarers.

23 June 2020 : Seafarers may  exercise the right to stop working and leave ships in order to  return home is the recent strong message of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) in relation to the seafarers’ repatriation issues  affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You have done your job, performed your duties, and accepted that you were unable to return home in the beginning in order to contain the spread of COVID-19 – but no more. Enough is enough. No more contract extensions,” the ITF said in a statement. “You have selflessly extended and extended your contracts to do your part to keep critical supplies flowing around the world during this pandemic.”

The ITF  will now assist hundreds of thousands of seafarers in enforcing their repatriation rights as a move caused by the insufficient action by governments to designate seafarers as ‘key workers’, exempt them from COVID-19 travel restrictions and facilitate repatriation of seafarers who have been caught up in the crew change crisis.The ITF fully expects port state authorities in all countries where ships dock to honor their legal obligations under the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC2006)  to get the seafarers safely home.

9. India needs to operate special flights for seafarers: Synergy Marine.

22 June 2020 : India, which is one of the three largest suppliers of seafarers, needs to mount special flights to port cities like Singapore, Rotterdam and Hong Kong to help facilitate crew changes amid coronavirus pandemic, a senior industry executive has said.

Around 40 per cent of Indian seafarers have completed their contracts but are still on the ships, with majority of them on cargo ships across various ports on extended contract due to visa restrictions and non-availability of flights, according to the industry estimates.

The problem has become more challenging in the wake of International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) allowing the seafarers to return home after the deadline for repatriation of crew working beyond their agreed contract period – following the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) protocol – got over on June 15, said Rajesh Unni, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of ship services management company, Synergy Marine Group.

Enough is enough; you have the right to return home,” the London-based ITF advised seafarers after the expiry of the deadline. According to the industry estimates, 20,000 seafarers signed on and off ships which called Indian ports or vessels that were diverted to Cochin anchorage for crew change since the lockdown.

10. Philippines : Filipino Authorities Find It A Hard Task To Test 7000 Seafarers.

22 June 2020 : Mass testing of 7,000 returning seafarers is proving to be quite a difficult job for the Philippine Coast Guard(PCG) onboard some 18 cruise ships that have presently gathered in Manila Bay. Gold standard’ COVID testing has been adopted by the Filipino authorities, which includes the PCG as well as the Bureau of Quarantine(BOQ).

Authorities estimate that a minimum of one week time will be required to test all the seafarers onboard the 18 cruise ships. The crew can then disembark and wait for the outcomes offshore. Those who are deemed as negative as per the tests will be handed a certificate of completion, enabling them to return to their families on all available modes of transport.

Authorities seconded the thoughts that those seafarers who quarantined aboard the ship while on their way to Manila would be allowed to descend in order to reunite with their families as soon as possible. Within two weeks, many seafarers are expected to return to the country as per the Department of Foreign Affairs(DFA), taking the total number of unemployed Overseas Filipino Workers(OFWs) repatriated by DFA to 24000.

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