Many cruise ship passengers and cargo vessel crew have found themselves stranded since the outbrak of the coronavirus pandemic. European Commission has issued guidelines to provide recommendations on health, repatriation and travel arrangements. They also call on Member States to create a network of ports where crew changes can take place without delay.
The guidelines call on Member States, in coordination with the Commission, to designate ports around EU shores for fast-track crew changes, with adequate facilities for seafarers to undertake medical checks, quarantine if required by the country in question, and transport connections onward to their home country.
Ships must already submit a Maritime Declaration of Health before entering a port. In addition, the Commission recommends that approaching vessels communicate – four hours before the estimated time of arrival – the number of people on board and any confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections.
The health and safety of seafarers and port workers is paramount. The Commission calls for personal protective equipment to be made available and used in line with existing recommendations and for seafarers to have access to adequate medical care if in need. Where all members of a crew are healthy and if their previous port call took place more than a fortnight ago, they should not be quarantined when they disembark to repatriate.
These guidelines do not cover crew members on fishing vessels, who fall under the scope of the recently adopted guidance documents concerning the exercise of the free movement of workers during COVID-19 outbreak and on border management measures to protect health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services.