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Crew Changing Procedure During Pandemic At Turkish Ports

As is known to all, within the scope of combating the coronavirus spreading rapidly worldwide there are various measures taken. In case of a restriction of ordinary crew change movements, the procedure to be implemented to seafarers change by the General Directorate of Maritime Affairs on 3rd December 2020 in accordance with the International Maritime Organization’s circular note No. 4204/Add.14 during entry and exit bans and curfew implementations in the course of work period of seafarers, maritime pilots, fishing vessel personnel, drill ship personnel, ship agents, coastal facility and open sea facility employers and service providers to ships and facilities, in order to continue carriage operations without interruptions at Turkish ports are stated below.

A – General Provisions

1) Seafarers are considered “key employee in marine logistics and supply chain”.

2) All travel plans, tickets, hotel reservations if necessary, papers and documents of seafarers who will join or leave a vessel shall be sent to the Port Authority of the place of change at least 48 hours in advance. Prior to transfer, in accordance with the actions to be taken by the authorised personnel Turkish General Directorate of Border and Coastal Ministry of Health as per the relevant legislation and opinion they present, border check-point local authority(s) will give permission to the transfer and operations will be done under their supervision and in line with their directions. This notification requirement is not compulsory for vessels operating at the cabotage voyage zone and on inland waters and seafarers working at those vessels are exempt from all travel restrictions. Seafarers working at vessels doing regular voyages between the ports of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and Turkey are considered as domestic logistics employees and they are not subject to quarantine restrictions.

3) During the possible travel restrictions in pandemic, seafarers are exempt from national travel restrictions to facilitate joining and disembarking the vessels.

4) Throughout pandemic restrictions, the provisions of this Circular is applicable for the crew change of vessels passing through Turkish Straits and changes are made in Istanbul and Canakkale. 5) Crew change of the vessels without Free Pratique issued by the Turkish General Directorate of Border and Coastal Health and which are not granted permission to crew change will not be allowed to change crew.

6) Shipping agencies’ compliance with the conditions specified in the application form will be tracked and change of seafarers will be allowed for those acting in accordance with the principles stated in this Circular.

7) Decisions made by the Provincial Public Health Boards on a provincial basis shall be fall outside the ambit of the provisions of this Circular.

8) Decisions regarding the change of seafarers who are nationals of the country where travel restrictions are imposed due to COVID-19, is evaluated by the border gate local authority taking into account the date when they joined the vessel and vessel’s ports of call of the ship. Changes deemed unsuitable as a result of the evaluation are not allowed.

9) Seafarers of foreign nationality, who are prohibited from entering and leaving Turkey are out of the scope of this Circular.

10) All costs and expenses for seafarer changes are covered by the shipowner, its operator or agency.

11) In the periods of the pandemic without restrictions seafarer changes are made as per regulations and decisions issued by the Turkish Border and Coastal Directorate General of Health.

B – Seafarer Change Procedure at Turkish Ports

1) Foreign seafarers’ change, leaving or joining vessels in Turkey can only be made in Antalya, Canakkale, Istanbul, Izmir, Kocaeli, Yalova, Mersin and Samsun provinces.

2) Disembarkation shall be accompanied by the shipping agency without having contact with anyone to the airport or land/sea border gate of their departure to their home countries during their travel. Embarkation shall be accompanied by shipping agency from the foreign entrance gate or the place where they are waiting to join vessel to the seaport without having contact with anyone.

3) In the event that the seafarer resides in Turkey, shipping agency shall accompany the seafarer at their arrival or departure from the vessel to their residence or to the ship without having a contact with anyone. Home quarantine implementations are controlled and carried out in accordance with the instructions of the Ministry of Health.

4) In cases where it is necessary for the seafarer to stay in Turkey for any reason, the shipping agency is responsible for transferring the seafarer to the place of accommodation and then to the airport or border exit gate without contacting anyone, and the joining crew to their accommodation and then to the vessel. The control that the seafarer complies with quarantine measures during their stay is made within the scope of measures deemed appropriate, including private security services, by the Home Office.

5) Cases of violation of the quarantine are immediately notified and complaints are made to the relevant Local Authority and the Provincial / District Epidemic Control Centers under the Governorate / District Governorship, through the Ministry of Health “Hayat Eve Sigar (HES)” (Life Fits Home) application or via call numbers 112, 155, 156. In this regard, an administrative action will be brought in accordance with the relevant articles of the Public Health Law.

6) The following steps are followed for the crew to be changed according to their arrival to and departure from the vessel.

a) Whether the crew departing from the vessel have COVID-19 symptoms or not shall be determined by the medical examinations conducted by the relevant departments of the Ministry of Health Border and Coastal Health General Directorate under the instructions published subsequent to the arrival of the vessel to the port. If there are any symptoms, matters relating to quarantine, treatment and travel of the crew are subject to the practices of the competent authorities.

b) A PCR type COVID-19 test, which is performed within 48 hours prior to the date of joining the ship and shows a negative result, is sought from the personnel who will join the vessel. Tests shall be checked by the Turkish General Directorate of Border and Coastal Health units.

c) The crew who will join the vessel must have health insurance covering the minimum time they will join the vessel and must include COVID-19. In cases where the original of the policy cannot be presented, the policies presented in electronic environment and policy samples are also accepted.

d) Evaluations regarding the necessity of the quarantine period after the last port of call shall be undertaken by Turkish General Directorate of Border and Coastal Health units taking into account the cases of contacts at previous ports. Depending on the result of the evaluation, the decision on quarantine period and whether to spend the remaining quarantine period on the vessel or on land shall be made by the same units.

e) Whether the crew disembarking or joining the vessel has necessary travel documents shall be checked.

C – Owner/Operating Company and Shipping Agency’s Responsibilities:

The responsibilities of the ship owner / operating company or shipping agencies are as follows, but not limited to:

1) Notifying the Port Authority of the personnel information that will change 48 hours prior to the crew change, by filling the form in the Annex,

2) If it is detected that the personnel to be changed carries the Covid-19 virus, the quarantine and, if necessary, the initiation and follow-up of the treatment of the seafarers (at the designated hotel, hospital or residence if they reside in Turkey) within the scope of the instructions of the Ministry of Health,

3) Ensuring direct transport of seafarers without having any contact with other people,

4) Ensuring that all necessary hygiene equipment (disinfectants, masks, visors, etc.) between the first and last point of the transfer and travel in accordance with the social distancing rules.

Source: Esenyel Partners

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