Existing floating accommodation converted to holding facility for seafarers

SINGAPORE – Three existing floating facilities at the Tanjong Pagar Terminal previously used to house foreign workers will be converted into a self-contained centre to house seafarers, such as crew in between their ship transfers, from Tuesday (Sept 1).

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said on Friday (Aug 28) that the new crew facilitation centre, which is equipped with an onsite medical centre, along with testing and holding facilities, will be able to facilitate more crew changes taking place locally, while ensuring that the ships and local communities are kept safe.

The centre is dedicated to house crew for up to 48 hours before they board their ships, in case their ship and flight schedules are mismatched and they need a place to stay.

In line with current measures, crew who are due to depart Singapore will be housed at existing designated holding facilities at Seacare Hotel and the Posh Bawean accommodation vessel, with the same 48-hour restriction in place.

Though more accommodation for seafarers will be a boon for those in the shipping industry, shipping agents still hope for longer stays at these holding facilities, and more affordable accommodation for their crew members.

Captain Philip Tay, chief executive officer of Apex Ship Management, felt that the crew members’ length of stay should be extended beyond 48 hours, which will allow for more leeway in coordinating and arranging crew changes.

Seventy-six of his crew members have undergone crew changes in Singapore since March.

Though he recognises the importance of these facilities in keeping seafarers safe, the possibility of mounting accommodation costs may be a growing concern as the pandemic drags on. For instance, additional sanitation costs imposed at one of the holding facilities will, in turn, increase overall accommodation costs borne by the company.

To tackle challenges faced by those in the shipping industry, streamlined crew-changing procedures, such as reduced stay-home notices (SHN) from 14 days to seven days, will be issued to crew members coming into Singapore from identified low-risk countries, provided that they have been staying there for at least 14 days.

Those who have stayed in Brunei and New Zealand for at least 14 days will no longer be required to serve SHN before their arrival into Singapore.

However, crew members must first undergo a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at approved testing facilities before their departure for Singapore.

(From left) MPA Academy dean Tan Suan Jow, Minister of Transport Ong Ye Kung and Senior Minister of State for Transport and Foreign Affairs Chee Hong Tat looking at a room inside the Crew Facilitation Centre at Tanjong Pagar Terminal on Aug 28, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

The MPA said on Aug 15 that 15 Filipino crew members working onboard a Bahamas-registered ship that arrived in Singapore from India on Aug 8 were confirmed to have Covid-19.

All crew members had not disembarked and were transferred ashore and taken via ambulance directly to a hospital.

To further ensure safe port operations locally, MPA also stipulated that ships needing, for example, repairs and inspection must inform the Port Master at least three days before the ship’s arrival as shore personnel will be needed to board the ship.

They must have also undertaken added precautionary measures beforehand, such as disinfecting working areas of the ship.

As Singapore remains an important global hub port, the MPA, Singapore Shipping Association, Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union, and Singapore Organisation of Seamen will establish a $1 million fund to propagate best practices for safe crew changes, said MPA in a media statement.

The fund, known as the Singapore Shipping Tripartite Alliance Resilience (SG-Star) Fund, will be used to collaborate with stakeholders in seafaring nations to come up with concrete solutions for safe crew changes, as well as initiatives on best practices for PCR testing centres and crew-holding facilities.

Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung said: “This dedicated facility for crew change and the fund are the results of the collaboration between MPA, industry associations and seafarer unions. As shipping is a global business, we hope that more ports and stakeholders will join us in such initiatives so that seafarers can continue their work and keep the supply lines of the world open.”

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