In line with the commitment to make the Philippines as an international crew change hub, the government has conducted over-the-weekend the first crew change operation outside Metro Manila at Port Capinpin in Orion Bataan
The crew change operation was held after all operational requirements for the location, such as the establishment of a One-Stop Shop (OSS), RT-PCR testing booths, quarantine facilities, anchorage, application and Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ) procedures, and tugboats were finalized and approved.
Raul Del Rosario, head of the Office of Transportation Security (OTS) and administrator of the OSS, said it took more than a month to establish one in Port Capinpin.
Port Capinpin, a port being operated and managed by the Philippine Port Authority (PPA), was activated as a crew change hub along with Port of Manila and Subic Bay Freeport Zone last month. Other ports for activation include Batangas, Davao, and Cebu.
The activation of crew change hubs was directed by Department of Transportation to help address the global need for fresh crew of ships, and to ensure the health, safety, welfare and employment of seafarers as they can only serve on board a vessel without leave up to 11 months based on International Labour Organization (ILO) 2006 Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).
This will primarily benefit seafarers, who are stranded onboard ships with expired contracts due to imposed travel restrictions due to COVID-19.
Strict protocols and procedures were set by the OSS to ensure the smooth implementation of crew change operations. Prior to embarkation, seafarers are required to undergo RT-PCR testing 72 hours before boarding.
After getting a negative result, they will be subjected to physical examination by the Bureau of Quarantine, as well as Customs and Immigration procedures. Upon obtaining clearance, they will be sent to the vessel where they will receive handover of duties from off signees.
On the other hand, off signing seafarers are required to undergo custom immigration and quarantine (CIQ) procedures onboard vessel.
Once fully cleared by authorities, they will be sent to the port for disembarkation, debriefing, RT-PCR testing and quarantine.
To further help seafarers, Jay Santiago PPA general manager said that the PPA is currently constructing a 100-bed quarantine facility at Port Capinpin, which may be used by seafarers waiting for the result of their COVID-19 test.