DOTr activates 3 ports as crew change hubs

The Department of Transportation (DOTr), through its Maritime Sector, is now activating crew change hubs to address the global need for fresh crew of ships operated by around 1.5 million seafarers, 378,000 or 25 percent of which are Filipinos. 

“This month alone, the DOTr maritime sector was able to open and activate three crew change hubs in the country. These are located at the Port of Manila, Port of Capinpin in Bataan, and today, at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. It is my hope for the Philippines to become a major international hub for crew change,” Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade said.

On August 19, Port Capinpin in Bataan joined the Port of Manila as a crew change hub. Other ports for activation include Batangas, Davao, and Cebu.

Crew change is essential to ensure seafarers’ safety, health, welfare and employment as they can only serve on board a vessel without leave up to a maximum of 11 months based on International Labour Organization (ILO) 2006 Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).

The activation of crew change hubs will primarily benefit seafarers, recognized globally as key workers, who are stranded onboard ships with expired contracts due to travel restrictions aimed to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

“To guarantee that the health and safety of seafarers and the public are protected while we work on this endeavor, the DOTr and its attached agencies are activating hubs in close coordination with various government agencies and units involved in crew changes,” OIC-Assistant Secretary for Maritime Vice Admiral Narciso Vingson, Jr. said.

MARINA Administrator Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad underscored the need to establish crew change hubs in the country especially now that there is a pandemic.

“This has been a significant cause of worry, as seafarers of all nationalities are already experiencing immense physical and mental fatigue brought on by overstaying onboard ships at sea. If this continues, delivery of essential cargo will be affected. Having crew change hubs in the country will solve this problem and give our seafarers the advantage of swift processing due to the established protocols,”  Empedrad said.

Aside from facilitating the transfer of stranded marine personnel off their vessels because of the pandemic, Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago likewise stated that crew change hubs in the country are also expected to generate economic activities and revenues in the areas where they are located, with the collection of port dues and charges from ship dockage or anchorage.

“By becoming a crew change capital of the world, we would not only prime up our seafaring and maritime industry. We also expect to boost our hospitality industry,” GM Santiago emphasized. 

In the last four months, a total of 734 ships docked or anchored in the Port of Manila for the purposes of crew change. A total of 34,000 seafarers were served, wherein 28,000 seafarers disembarked while 5,800 joined the ships. 

For ship turnaround, cargo ships usually stay for about 6 to 12 hours while cruise ships stay for a week up to a month if they serve as quarantine facilities. 

“We can look forward to the same maritime traffic in other hubs as more foreign shipping principals are expected to patronize our ports for crew change. Aside from opening our ports for crew change, the Joint Circular for Green Lane for seafarers provide speedy movements of seafarers in our country. Three major shipping companies of Japan already bannered our green lane program in the conduct of crew change. We expect other flags to follow their lead,” GM Santiago added. 

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