Canada Makes Provisions for Seafarer Transits

file photo
file photo

Published Apr 9, 2020 5:41 PM by Tom Peters

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted Transport Canada’s Marine Safety Directorate to issue a number of ship safety bulletins on new regulations for ships’ crews and other aspects of the marine industry.

The directorate says the bulletins are aimed at owners, authorized representatives and operators of commercial vessels, including other interested marine industry stakeholders and are a source of accurate and up to-date ship safety information.

COVID-19, which has impacted many aspects of the marine industry, has required the Marine Safety Directorate to issue a bulletin providing guidance regarding the mobility of asymptomatic marine sector workers during the pandemic.

This bulletin deals with both international and domestic crew changes, shore leave for both domestic and international seafarers and exemption from self-isolation requirements for asymptomatic marine sector workers, both Canadian and foreign nationals.

Crew changes are regular occurrences in the marine sector. Once seafarers finish their required sea service, they fly home to their families and a relief crew must replace them. These exchanges are critical to ensure the flow of marine trade.

Canada has orders-in-council which offer information on minimizing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 specific to coming to Canada with an exemption that allows marine sector workers who have to travel to Canada to perform their duties to board an international flight destined to Canada.

However, no traveler can board a flight to Canada if they are symptomatic with a fever and cough or a fever and breathing difficulties. (Further details can be found at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website). Similarly, crews on foreign vessels in Canada, who must disembark to return home, must be asymptomatic.

An asymptomatic crew are also permitted to transit to the nearest airport for the purpose of crew change-over as permitted under Public Health Agency of Canada orders.

Domestic crew should follow the advice of their employer and local health officials.

The Directorate has also issued prohibitions that apply to shore leave for foreign crew in the situations where shore leave is considered discretionary and are in place to minimize potential health risks to marine sector workers.

Essential shore leave can be granted under certain conditions and for a limited period. Shore leave will not be granted for optional or discretionary purposes, such as tourism, recreation or entertainment.

When crew return from a limited shore leave, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has various protocols that must be followed.

Also, ports may implement procedures to support mental health and well-being of crew.

Crew taking shore leave from Canadian domestic vessels should follow the advice of their employer and local health officials.

A complete ban on shore leave in the Canadian Arctic is in effect until December 31, 2020. Crews that are residents of Arctic and northern communities could be exempt, subject to any advice from local public health official.

The cruise industry in Canada has also been impacted by COVID-19. Advisories have been issued on the health risks associated with cruising to passengers, crew and port workers.

To minimize the risk of COVID-19 spreading to Canadian ports and communities, regulations have been implemented to restrict cruise ships that are capable of carrying 500 or more persons, including both passengers and crew members from accessing ports managed by port authorities, public ports, public port facilities, and the St. Lawrence Seaway until July 1, 2020.

Transport Canada marine safety bulletins and advisories can be viewed at: www.tc.gc.ca/ssb-bsn.