Canada Revises Procedures For Inbound Crew to Facilitate Changes

Canada further revises its protocol for inbound foreign seafarers to facilitate crew change
Canadian flag at sea - courtesy bgilst-Wikimedia (Creative Commons License)

Published Jun 26, 2020 4:24 PM by The Maritime Executive

With the ongoing international call for actions to accommodate crew changes during the current public health crisis, Canada has responded making further changes to its procedures focusing on inbound foreign workers. It is the second time in a month that Canada has announced changes to its protocols for foreign seafarers required to travel to Canada to join a vessel.

While the process appears complicated, Canada says it is designed to ease the barriers that the current restrictions have created. In an email, Luc Brisebois, Associate Director General, Marine Safety and Security for Transport Canada detailed the steps and Canada is supporting the process with websites.

As part of the process, Canada is committing to expedite processing for the inbound foreign workers. While process steps vary based on if the seafarer is coming from a country that requires a visa or is visa-exempt, the critical requirement is for documentation such as a letter from a shipping agent showing that it is for an essential (non-discretionary) purpose. As part of the process seafarers are also instructed how to label their applications with the purpose of travel as COVID-19. Supporting documentation should include a seafarer’s identify document, supplemented by a passport or other seafarer documentation, including proof of employment on a vessel at a Canadian port.

Visa applications have to be made online, and Canada is saying that they aim to process them within five days of filing. For a visa-exempt country, the seafarer still needs an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), which Canada says is normally processed in minute or follow up notification will be sent within 72 hours.

The steps being announced were designed to reduce some of the bottlenecks that seafarers were experiencing in trying to obtain the necessary paperwork. Canada continues not to require quarantines but notes that anyone showing symptoms will not be allowed to board a flight to Canada. Inbound seafarers are also instructed to have their health checked by airline officials to confirm that you don’t have symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever, a cough and difficulty breathing. They are told to tell the airline that they are exempt from the travel restrictions, and to show an immigration officer that they are coming for an essential (non-discretionary) purpose with a letter from a shipping agent.

The announcement of the new process was made a day after the IMO lead the Day of the Seafarer and organizations around the globe repeated the calls to make accommodations for crew members that are stuck at sea awaiting their replacements and the inbound seafarers who cannot reach their assigned ships due to the travel restrictions.