Port of Cebu activates crew change hub, starts accepting seafarers for crew change operations

Following the successful dry run to test its operation protocols on Thursday, the Department of Transportations (DOTr) confirms the activation of the crew change hub at the Port of Cebu on Friday, 16 October 2020.

According to DOTr Assistant Secretary for Maritime Narciso Vingson, after several consultative meetings with the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for Crew Change, Regional Task Force Central Visayas (RTF-7), and the Cebu Provincial and Local Government Units, the crew change protocol of Cebu has been approved.

Further, the Cebu Provincial Government issued Executive Order No. 27 dated 14 October to confirm the activation.

“Cebu is a strategic location for crew change, as it is at the heart of the Visayas. With the approval of the Port of Cebu as a crew change hub, the port can begin to facilitate the process for arriving and departing seafarers coming to and from the Visayas. We thank all our partners, especially the Regional Task Force 7, the Cebu Provincial Government and the Cebu City Government, for their strong and unwavering support since the planning stage. The whole-hearted cooperation and close coordination afforded to the team made the swift activation possible,” Asec Vingson said.

For his part, Office for Transportation Security (OTS) and One-Stop Shop (OSS) Head Raul Del Rosario said that the OSS Cebu has been organized, with the Cebu Ports Authority (CPA) as lead and Secretariat.

“We have established the OSS here in Cebu Port, with the CPA as lead and Secretariat, so that seafarers can undergo a smooth flow of processing, especially in terms of ensuring their health. Mahalaga ho itong OSS upang mas mapabilis at ligtas na makauwi ang mga marino, lalo na ang ating mga kababayang matagal nang nasa laot at sabik na makapiling ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay,” Usec Del Rosario shared. Cebu Port Authority (CPA) General Manager Leonilo Miole said that the Port of Cebu will now start receiving requests for crew change from both domestic and foreign-registered vessels.

“This is a milestone not just for the Port of Cebu, our maritime partners, and our seafarers, but also for Cebu, in general, as this is also seen to generate economic activities and revenues,” GM Miole said.

The crew change hub at the Port of Cebu will serve (1) Filipino seafarers joining a ship docked in the Philippines for overseas (outbound), (2) Filipino seafarers leaving a ship (inbound), (3) foreign seafarers joining a ship docked in the port from an airport (airport to ship) and (4) foreign seafarers leaving a ship docked in the port to an airport (ship to airport).

GM Miole has assured the public that safety protocols are already in place to avoid any possible transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) during crew change operations.

Based on the crew change protocol approved by the DOTr and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), all arriving vessels at the Port of Cebu will be anchored at the designated anchorage or docking site authorized by the CPA and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

Disembarking seafarers must observe health and safety protocols such as disinfection, handwashing, social distancing and wearing of full personal protective equipment (PPE) – face mask, face shield, gloves and hazmat suit. On arrival at the Port of Cebu’s OSS facility, seafarers must then immediately proceed to the registration booth and undergo mandatory swab testing procedure.

After completing the OSS procedures, seafarers must immediately board their assigned vehicles that will take them to their designated quarantine facilities as approved by the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) while waiting for the results of their swab tests.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) will be responsible for the Quarantine Facility accommodations of the seafarers while waiting for their swab test result.

For embarking vessel crew members, only seafarers with negative COVID-19 test results and a Certification of Containment will be allowed to board vessels.

Health and safety protocols must also be observed by all embarking crew members.

The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) Regional Office 7, headed by Director Marc Anthony Pascua, is at the OSS to ensure that all concerns of seafarers are addressed.

Meanwhile, the PCG Coast Guard District Central Visayas, led by its Commander, RADM Jose William U Isaga, is in-charge of providing service support and maritime law enforcement during crew change operations.

The activation of crew change hubs in the Philippines was directed by DOTr Secretary Tugade to help address the global need for the fresh crewing of vessels, and to ensure the health, safety, welfare and employment of seafarers, as they can only serve on board a vessel without a leave only up to 11 months, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO) 2006 Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). Crew change hubs in the country will primarily benefit seafarers, who are stranded onboard ships with expired contracts due to imposed travel restrictions due to COVID-19.

Aside from the Port of Cebu, the Philippines also operates crew change hubs at the Port of Manila, the Port of Capinpin in Bataan, and at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Meanwhile, the ports in Batangas and Davao are waiting for the activation of their respective crew change hubs.