Hong Kong has announced 'unrestricted' crew changes through the region's ports and airports in response to joint action from unions.
Under the latest guidelines, crew members of goods vessels, including those without cargo operations, are exempt from compulsory quarantine under Cap. 599E (Compulsory Quarantine of Persons Arriving at Hong Kong from Foreign Places Regulation).
Seafarers signing off their vessels are required to stay onboard and travel directly to the airport for repatriation.
On-signers should board their vessels immediately upon arrival in Hong Kong. Seafarers should not arrive in advance of their ship.
If there is an extraordinary requirement for on-signing crew to stay in Hong Kong in advance of boarding, self-isolating accommodation must be arranged by the shipping company or agent until the crew members boards their vessel.
Representatives of the Merchant Navy Officers' Guild-Hong Kong (MNOG-HK), an affiliate of the Nautilus Federation, were joined by the Amalgamated Union of Seafarers, Hong Kong (AUSHK), the local International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) inspector and colleagues from the ITF office in Hong Kong.
The unions urged for the appropriate relaxation of border restrictions that negatively impacted on crew changes.
The delegation delivered a joint petition letter to Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Autonomous Region Carrie Lam, which raised three demands:
- to recognise the workers of the global supply chain, including seafarers, maritime professionals, aviation workers, cargo supply chain workers as 'key workers' and that their works are 'necessary for the supply of goods or services required for the normal operation of Hong Kong or the daily needs of the people of Hong Kong'
- to eliminate obstacles that restrained possible crew changes, in particular for those crew on vessels which entered Hong Kong for replenishment purposes
- Hong Kong is a leading world port and international hub airport – the government is capable of settling the crew change issue and should shoulder more responsibilities
The previous border and transit policy enabled crew change only for seafarers working onboard operational cargo vessels.
Local unions determined that this was unsustainable for the safety and wellbeing of ships' crews and the safe operation of maritime trade, and that the measures were 'damaging Hong Kong's reputation as a leading seaport and international logistics hub'.
Nautilus FAQs on Covid-19 Coronavirus
International union pressure is getting results in crew change crisis, says Nautilus general secretary
Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson renewed the Union's commitment to international cooperation in an online industry event today – stressing that joint working between unions, employers and governments is key to achieving crew relief and repatriation during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Seafarer quarantine exemption 'certificate' released for UK arrivals
Nautilus International and the UK Chamber of Shipping jointly produced a special 'guidance letter' in 2020 for seafarers arriving at UK ports supporting their exemption from the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in the UK. This was updated in January 2021.
Unions call for immediate repatriation of US mariners
The Masters, Mates & Pilots union (MM&P) has joined forces with five other US maritime unions, to call on the US government to urgently enable crew changes for American mariners, likening their confinement due to Covid-19 restrictions to 'prison ships'.
Unions reach agreement with Singapore on pandemic crew relief
Seafarers stuck onboard in Singapore due to the Covid-19 pandemic have been given hope of relief, thanks to new official crew change guidelines agreed with Nautilus Federation unions.
Global shortage of ships officers to grow
A worldwide shortage of ships' officers is set to increase despite the damaging impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the industry, a new report has warned.
Expiring seafarer documents to be extended to the end of 2020
The US Coast Guard (USGC) has announced a further extension of expiring mariner documents, to ease some of the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on seafarers and the maritime industry.