Amid the crew change crisis that has gripped the global shipping industry, in an attempt to re-start the regular crew changes, Hong Kong is to allow unrestricted exchange of seafarers, without requiring any quarantine measures or individual permissions.
The Hong Kong Marine Department has updated the rules and regulations to permit the unrestricted crew changes.
The Hong Kong Shipowners’ Association (HKSOA) persuaded the government relentlessly to permit crew changes in one of the world’s largest hub ports. In April, the Hong Kong government relaxed the regulations to enable crew changes aboard vessels in port for cargo operations only. Still, the HKSOA wanted the government to allow the crew change aboard cargo ships without cargo operations also.
As per the new rules issued by Hong Kong SAR government, the off-signing crew members who have completed their contracts would be required to stay on board the vessel in Hong Kong and travel directly to the airport for repatriation.
The on-signing crew members should only arrive in Hong Kong when their vessels are already docked in the port of Hong Kong and should get onboard immediately upon arrival. In case there is a need for the on-signing crew to stay in Hong Kong prior boarding the vessel, the shipping company or the agents will arrange them in accommodation for self-isolation until the crew members boards their vessel.
Commenting on the major announcement by the Hong Kong SAR government, Bjorn Hojgaard, chairman of HKSOA, said: “Many seafarers have been working in ships for almost or even over a year. They all look forward with great anxiety to seeing their families and taking a rest at home when their employment contracts expire.
“Earlier, the Hong Kong Shipowners Association has written to the Chief Executive and met with the senior officials including Secretary for Transport and Housing and Director of Marine. We have put forward some practical, concrete proposals to address the crew change issues, whilst not compromising the public health of the local community.
The Chief Secretary has exercised his powers to approve the exemption of crew members of goods vessels, including those without cargo operations, from compulsory quarantine under Cap. 599E to undergo crew changes in Hong Kong.
— HKSOA (@hksoa_org) June 9, 2020
“Today, we are very pleased to see that the HKSAR Government has taken our advice to further relax the arrangements so that with immediate effect, crew change of cargo ships without cargo operations is also allowed,” he said.