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Government Issues new Framework on Crew Changes During COVID-19 in compliance with the IMO’s circular letter No. 4204/Add.1
Due to the dramatic increase in the nationwide COVID-19 cases over the last few months, the Turkish Government has imposed new mandatory lockdowns and movement restrictions on the public and businesses. In order to avoid crippling the operations of the shipping industry with the travel and movement restrictions, the General Directorate of Maritime Affairs (the “Directorate”) has issued a new framework with regard to crew changes under a circular dated 3 December 2020 (the “Circular”). The Directorate has issued a set of rules in order to maintain the continuation of the shipping operations in the Turkish waters and ports without interruptions. Some of the highlights of the Circular are as follows:
A. General Terms
Seafarers are designated as “key workers of maritime transportation and supply chain”.
Agents shall submit all documents with regard to travel arrangements, tickets and hotel reservations (if necessary) of the crew members who will embark on/disembark from the vessel to the relevant Harbour Master for approval at least 48 hours in advance of the crew change. Vessels operating in cabotage area and inland waters and their crew are exempt from such notification requirements and all travel restrictions. Crew members of vessels operating between domestic ports and the ports of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus shall be deemed as domestic logistics personnel and will be exempt from lockdown restrictions.
- Seafarers are exempt from domestic travel restrictions in order to ease the embarcation/disembarcation procedures.
- The framework under the Circular is also applicable to vessels passing through the Bosphorus and Dardannelles straits and the crew changes shall take place in Istanbul and Canakkale, respectively.
- Crew changes shall not be allowed for vessels that do not have a Free Pratique issued by the Directorate General of Health for Border and Coastal Areas.
- All costs and expenses for the crew change shall be covered by the shipowner, manager or agent.
B. Crew Change Procedure at Turkish Ports
- Crew change of foreign seafarers who will embark on/disembark from the vessel shall only be carried out in the cities of Antalya, Canakkale, Istanbul, Izmir, Kocaeli, Yalova, Mersin and Samsun.
- Agents shall accompany foreign seafarers who will embark on/disembark from the vessel and ensure that the relevant seafarer does not come into contact with any individuals while travelling from the airport/Turkish border to the vessel and vice versa. The same is applicable with regard to seafarers residing in Turkey or is required to stay overnight, when travelling from their residence/temporary accommodation to the vessel and vice versa.
- Crew members who will disembark from the vessel will be subjected to a health check in order to determine whether the individuals show any COVID-19 symptoms. Necessary precautions shall be taken if any symptoms are present.
- Crew members who will embark on a vessel are required to submit a negative result of a PCR test taken within the last 48 hours.
- It is mandatory that the relevant crew members have a health insurance policy covering the period of attendance to the vessel.
In addition to the above, the Circular imposes responsibilities to the shipowner/manager or the agents, including but not limited to;
- Ensuring and following-up the due quarantine and, if necessary, treatment of crew members who tested positive for COVID-19,
- Ensuring the transportation of crew members without coming onto contact with the public, and
- Ensuring the supply of medical equipment (disinfectants, masks, face shields etc.) and the following of social distancing rules during transportation of crew members.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you like to have more information on the framework or have any queries.